A well-judged running order powerfully exploits contrast (between austere Gregorian chant for example, and the rich 20th century sonorities of the Harris anthem which follows), although the longest item, Ligeti's ethereal and barely tonal Lux aeterna, provides an unsettling conclusion.
The mixed voices of Clare College Choir are a little over- and under-robust for the Byrd and Rachmaninov respectively, but elsewhere their versatility is admirable. Ely Cathedral's resonant acoustic is thrillingly atmospheric notwithstanding occasional distortions of clarity. Excellent sleeve notes are a bonus. HHH
LULLY: Grand Motets, Vol.1 (Te Deum; Miserere, etc) Naxos: Te Deum or tedium? All too often, performances tend towards the latter state. Not so, however, with these interpretations of big-boned majestic and relatively unfamiliar liturgical settings by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-16587).
This welcome issue offers listeners three substantial settings: the already mentioned Te Deum, a Miserere and his motet Plaude laetara Gallia, first performed in 1668, the year that Francois Couperin was born. Le Concert Spirituel directed by Herve Niquet perform with the requisite verve and vigour that is required in these almost operatic settings, but aside from the ceremony and clipped Gallic intensity, there is a very real sense of intimacy allied to a refined harmonic palette.
Also present to a high degree is Lully's total mastery of colour and texture and how he uses these to point up particular words in the text. Spirited performances from the orchestra and mainly reliable contributions from the six vocal soloists. If your musical sensibilities incline towards things French and liturgical, then this one is for you. HHHH
Richard Leigh Harris