Monday 26 September 2016

Some very fine performances from La Nuova Musica directed by David Bates on a new release from Harmonia Mundi of François Couperin’s Leçons De Ténèbres and Sébastien de Brossard’s Stabat Mater

La Nuova Musica was founded by its artistic director David Bates  in 2007, whilst in residency at Snape Maltings.

The group was quickly recognised as one of the most exciting consorts in the early music field. They received the classical nomination at the 2012 South Bank Sky Arts/The Times Breakthrough Awards. In the same year they signed with Harmonia Mundi USA making recordings with artists such as Lawrence Zazzo, Robert Murray, Sophie Junker, Lucy Crowe, John Mark Ainsley and Tim Mead.

Highlights have been concerts at the inaugural Sagra Musicale Umbra in Perugia, Handel’s Israel In Egypt in Salisbury Cathedral and a performance of Acis and Galatea at St John's Smith Square, London. They have given concerts at Wigmore Hall, the first of which was with counter tenor Bejun Mehta, and a concert performance of Antonio Cesti’s Orontea. 2016 saw concerts at the Göttingen Internationale Händel Festspiele and at the Brighton International Festival with Dame Ann Murray, as well as their debut at the Salzburger Festspiel.

La Nuova Musica’s latest recording for Harmonia Mundi  with Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts features François Couperin’s Leçons De Ténèbres along with Sébastien de Brossard’s Stabat Mater recorded at St. Augustine’s Church, Kilburn, London.

HMU 807659

François Couperin (1688-1733) was royal harpsichordist at the French court and a leading composer of his day. His Trois Leçons de Tenebres (Tenebrae Lessons for the last three days of Holy week) date from between 1713 and 1717.

Première Leçons opens gently with organ, viola de gamba and theorbo soon joined by soprano Lucy Crowe who brings a wonderfully pure tone to Incipit Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae. Yet during the course of this Leçons she finds some lovely richer textures, rising through some fine passages finding a terrific flexibility and control in the vocalised passages, with the instruments providing a sensitive accompaniment. In Ghimel. Migravit Juda she finds a real sense of pathos, subtly rising in passion and fire with a terrific strength. The instrumentalists of La Nuova Musica add lovely little instrumental decorations.  Crowe brings some superb phrases in Facti sunt hostes, exquisitely controlled, finding so many subtle nuances. There is a lovely, slow, hushed, quiet instrumental introduction to Jerusalem, convertere to which Crowe brings the most lovely decorations around her pure toned, wonderfully controlled delivery.

Sébastien de Brossard (c.1655-1730) was maître de chapelle at Strasbourg Cathedral before taking a similar post in Meaux, France. His most important writing on music was his Dictionnaire (1701/03), the first of its kind in France. His Sonate en trio en mi mineur, SdB. 220 is played by David Bates (organ) and members of La Nuova Musica, Jonathan Rees (viola), Alex McCartney (theorbo), Bojan Čičić and Sabine Stoffer (violins) They draw some lovely textures finding a lovely rhythmic spring in the Allegro (fuga) with some really lively and vibrant playing.

Soprano Elizabeth Watts opens François Couperin’s Seconde Leçons with a sweet toned vocalise before bringing some beautifully characterised phrases in Et egressus est, beautifully and subtly accompanied by the three instrumentalists. Recordata est Jerusalem brings beautifully turned phrases, wonderfully controlled and with some vibrant incisive instrumental phrases before Peccatum peccavit Jerusalem with a terrific depth of feeling and often intense delivery. There are many passages of great power and intensity with Watts finding a terrific passion in the concluding Jerusalem, convertere with terrific accompaniment from the players.  

David Bates, Jonathan Rees, Alex McCartney, Bojan Čičić and Sabine Stoffer all return to bring a strong vibrancy and some superb textures and sonorities to Sébastien de Brossard’s Sonate en trio en la mineur, SdB. 223 with passages of great rhythmic panache as the music gallops along, even in the slower parts finding a lovely lilting rhythm.

Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts come together in François Couperin’s Troisième Leçons bringing a lovely blend of voices, complimenting each other perfectly in Manum suam misit hostis with individual solo passages and some very fine weaving of voices. Both bring some terrific drama to the setting as well as the most beautiful harmonies with again the instrumentalists providing the perfect accompaniment, sensitive, subtle and with lovely textures and timbres. Both sopranos bring a remarkably fine overlay of voices in De excelso misit ignem and a quite wonderful Jerusalem, convertere brings the conclusion.  

Sébastien de Brossard’s Stabat Mater, SdB. 8 dates from 1702 after his move to Meaux. When the voices and instrumentalists of La Nuova Musica suddenly open with Stabat mater dolorosa we leave the relative intimacy of the preceding works with a terrific sound.  Soloist, baritone James Arthur adds a rich texture to Cujus animam gementem before soprano Miriam Allan, high tenor Nicholas Scott, tenor Simon Wall, baritone James Arthur and bass Edward Grint weave a terrific sound in O quam tristis. This is impressive showing Brossard to be a composer of some ability and stature with some lovely subtle rises and falls in dynamics.

Miriam Allan and Nicholas Scott weave a lively and vibrant Quae maerebat et dolebat before the whole choir join for a beautifully mellow Quis est homo that slowly builds in power. Miriam Allan, Nicholas Scott and Edward Grint bring a particularly passionate Pro peccatis suae gentis where Brossard’s use of varying vocal forces adds so much.

The choir bring some dramatic vocal surges, wonderfully controlled quieter passages in Vidit suum dulcem natum before Nicholas Scott brings a sense of urgency to Eia mater, fons amoris to which tenor Simon Wall adds subtly varying textures. There is a glorious outpouring from the choir in Sancta Mater, istud agas with the various sections of the choir brilliantly used. Edward Grint enters with Tui nati vulnerati with a strong voice that brings some gritty textures and very fine lower phrases. Virgo virginum praeclara brings the choir and ensemble in a slower, flowing section that is particularly beautiful, with some terrific vocal shaping and control. This setting concludes with a very fine Fac ut portem Christi mortem where each of the four soloists soprano Miriam Allan, baritone James Arthur, high tenor Nicholas Scott and tenor Simon Wall bring very fine passages, joined by the whole choir as the music finds a faster pace as we head to a wonderfully sonorous Amen.

David Bates directs some very fine performances here. Both instrumentalists and voices of La Nuova Musica are terrific as are the two soloists in the Trois Leçons de Tenebres, Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts.

The excellent SACD recording is set in a lovely acoustic with a real sense of presence and detail. There are useful notes as well as full Latin texts with French, English and German translations. 

There is some very fine music making here on a disc not to be missed.