Dies Irae – Miserere
Donna Brown, soprano; Guillemette Laurens, mezzosoprano; Henri Ledroit, countertenor; Howard Crook, tenor; Hervé Lamy, tenor; Ulrich Studer, baritone; Peter Kooy, bass
Chœur et Orchestre de la Chapelle Royale
Philippe Herreweghe, conductor
Harmonia Mundi, 1985
The first thing I have to notice about this album is that its title focuses only on Jean-Baptiste Lully and avoids completely to mention the second composer, the less famous Henri Dumont – so do not be surprised if you will listen to this recording and you will find a third motet after Lully’s Dies irae and Miserere.
Lully’s motets are only two of the six Grands motets (alongside fourteen Petits motets) which he wrote for the church: this a comparatively poor quantity, even if they occupy an important place in his catalogue. They were written between 1660 and 1687, usually for verspers or for the King’s daily low mass. Miserere was written in 1663 and is probably the first grand motet with a five-part instrumental introduction and, differently from his other motets, has numerous duets, often beginning with introductions in imitations.
Different circumstances inspired the other motet of this collection, Dies irae, composed in memory of Marie-Thérèse, Queen to Louis XIV, who died in 1683. This motet reminds of a typical habit of the late XVII century (which continued in the next century) that some movements of the requiem were enlarged and set separately.
Henri Dumont (sometimes written Du Mont) wrote almost only sacred music and his motets are among the most representative of the genre. They are written in the typical French style (in five-parts) and are not made of successive movements unified by key and themes as those of Lully. It is the motet Memorare which has been recorded here: this is one of Dumont’s most representative works of this kind, alongside with Super flumina Babylonis, both written in 1686.
Dumont too composed a hundred petit motets.
This album was recorded by Chœur et Orchestre de la Chapelle Royale conducted by Philippe Herreweghe. Both chorus and orchestra (and the soloists too) share the same vitality and energy and they reach a fine achievement in all the three motets. The most beautiful and interesting of them is undoubtedly the sombre and mournful Dies irae, but no less impressive is Memorare, where the complex and ethereal music gives the choir the best opportunity to show its skill. I think that this recording collects some of the best pieces of the Baroque repertoire and that it presents them with great freshness.