« The word that bests describes this recording is transcendental, an attribute not found in many classical music artists lexicon these days, Daucé is a master of this refined grace. »

One of the greatest composers in 17th c. France, de Lalande (1657-1726) was principally dedicated to religious music and has been styled the ‘Latin Lully’ by some musicologists. After Lully’s death he was the most important composer in the realm, until his own demise. His numerous and excellent works for the stage, written for the entertainment of the courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV have not found a place in our own generation unlike some of his religious compositions. They are perhaps too subtle and highly finessed for our own generation. Charpentier, Lully and François Couperin seem to have a lock on the public’s attention, or is it that today’s conductors and music groups in general are not familiar with his extensive and rich oeuvre? Notwithstanding, a few of his Grand Motets have been recorded and programmed in Europe, but these masterpieces have not found a place in the North American early music movement, something which this writer finds unfortunate and a loss. Because of the considerable forces involved in mounting these works, budgetary considerations are probably part of the problem. Its interesting to note that the seminal book A Thematic Catalogue of the Works of Michel-Richard de Lalande (first published by Oxford U. Press in 2005, in English) by Lionel Sawkins, has done little to raise this composers profile in the North American scene.

In later life de Lalande refined his liturgical oeuvre repeatedly with an ongoing revision of the works he had initially performed at the Royal Chapel, Versailles over the course of his long and hugely productive career. Among his output is the 77 Grand Motets, (of which 67 survive in score) written for choir, orchestra and soli. His works were played at the Concert Spirituel in Paris til 1770 and many of these masterpieces survived at the Royal Chapel until the French Revolution swept the monarchy away in 1792. But the smaller liturgical masterpieces featured on this important new recording actually may make the status of de Lalande rise again. They were his most popular religious compositions with the Paris public at the time of his death, and rightly so as they represent a deep pure, intimate and spiritual piety unmatched in the era, except for Couperin’s own surviving Leçons. Though de Lalande’s Leçons are not as widely known or recorded as Couperin’s, they are of the same quality and power.
The word that bests describes this recording is transcendental, an attribute not found in many classical music artists lexicon these days, Daucé is a master of this refined grace. Soprano Sophie Karthäuser is a brilliant choice for this project with her directness and wonderful vocal clarity. At fourty years of age, she is a recognized star and is widely known for her late 18th century repertoire.
The three surviving de Lalande Leçons de Ténèbres, (he set all nine) and the Miserere à voix seul recorded here, were published after his death by his second wife, the viol player Marie-Louise de Cury. They must have been composed before 1711 as his two daughters both virtuoso sopranos are mentioned in period writings singing them. They both died suddenly during the smallpox epidemic that year, that ravaged Paris and environs. There is a famous story of Louis XIV and de Lalande commiserating over their losses as Louis only son, Le Grand Dauphin also was one of the victims.

Daucé has given the listener a reconstruction of an actual period performance during the time these works captured the public’s acclaim, circa 1710-1735. He has placed them as in a convent setting with the virtuoso solo vocal works surrounded by short works for a chorus of female voices (i.e. Nuns), singing Latin chant. This gives the recording a reflective aura befitting the Lenten penitential masterpieces beautifully. This CD furthers the mounting and justifiable media and public attention being garnered by this young group of artists and focused especially on their leader Sébastien Daucé. Paul-James DWYER, 2015

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