Recordings > Opera and Oratorio

BROSSARD: Oratorios; Leandro

spacer La Rêveuse, Perrot and Bolton. Latin and Italian texts with translations. MirareMIR 125

Recordings Leandro Cover 712

Writer of the first music dictionary, in 1702, Sébastien de Brossard (1655–1730) was the composer of several volumes of light airs, religious motets and the small oratorios featured on a new CD from the French ensemble La Rêveuse. Working in Strasbourg, Meaux and Paris, Brossard embraced the Italian style of composition but was known primarily as a theorist and bibliophile.

Brossard's Oratorio sopra l'Immaculata Conceptione della Beata Vergine features five solo voices and tiny ensemble of two violins and continuo. Modeled on the oratorios of Carissimi, Part One alone survives. In it,  Nature, Virtue and Idolatry implore God for an earthly savior. A striking "infernal symphony" introduces Adam (commandingly voiced by Benoit Arnauld) and the church fathers, while the singers of La Rêveuse give bold voice to such agonized laments as "Heu, nos miseros!" (Alas, we are in misery!). 

Leandro, an Italian cantata for three singers, tells the story of Hero and Leander, in poetry by Giovanni Battista Marino. Solo and in ensemble, the singers act as narrator and characters, in a variety of musical forms and textures, as Leander begins his customary swim across the Hellespont to Hero, only to perish in the fog, after which Hero throws herself from the nearest tower. Mezzo-soprano Isabelle Druet makes the most of the lament "O Dea filia del mar," and tenor Jeffrey Thompson voices the tragic ending affectingly.

Dialogus Poenitentis Animae cum Deo moves from laments to joy, as a dialogue for two voices and two violins. The penitent soul implores God for mercy and is lovingly welcomed into Paradise.

The singers and players of La Rêveuse, directed by Benjamin Perrot and Florence Bolton, share a profound command of the French style and a clean, clear approach to the music that reveals considerable appeal in these unknown works. spacer

JUDITH MALAFRONTE

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Current Issue: September 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 3