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Lalande Music for the Sun King Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review

In terms of his reputation today Lalande suffers alongside Lully or Charpentier, yet...

Andrew McGregor 2002

That Louis XIV: loved glamour, glitter and spending money like it was going out of style; hated High Mass. So while he splashed out on performers and composers to make music for just about everything that moved at Versailles, the Sun King needed something special for the Low Mass he preferred to attend in the royal chapel. And that's where Michel-Richard de Lalande came in; one of four composers appointed to his Majesty after a talent competition, Lalande became a royal favourite and prospered at court for over 43 years, long after Louis' death.

So, one of the young man's missions was to provide suitable music for the celebration of Mass the way the King wanted it, and Lalande perfected the grand motet that had been pioneered by his predecessor Henry du Mont: the priest read the liturgy and the music took the form of three motets tailored to the service, which could be up to a quarter of an hour in length.

Actually, they were sometimes longer. Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra bring us a couple of specials: a Te Deum laudamus with celebratory trumpets and drums, which replaced a full mass setting (but lasted no longer, at the King's insistence), and the psalm setting Venite, exultemus. What a glorious mixture of pomp and piety, from fanfares to some fine expressive harmonies. Try the opening or ending of the Te Deum to gauge the impact of the full forces; the Panis Angelicus for the quality of soprano Carolyn Sampson's solo singing, and Venite, adoremus for the sheer beauty of the whole exercise, the music and the performances.

In terms of his reputation today Lalande suffers alongside Lully or Charpentier, yet as this disc shows us, in the right hands he really shouldn't: there's music here just as noble and profound, and any lover of baroque choral music will lap it up.

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