The genre of the French motet was painstakingly defined by a long line of masters and lesser exponents working at the Louvre and in the royal parishes. In the course of the 17th century they invented the national equivalent of the German cantata. The grand motet, lasting about twenty minutes, was performed at the beginning of the Mass and was one of the three pieces of music heard by the King and his court at the daily religious services. It was followed by a short motet performed during the Elevation, and then by the Domine salvum fac regem, a final motet in which the full range of musical forces were brought into play. An inseparable part of the religious practice of the Ancien Régime, the grand motet is the supreme example of French sacred music. Rameau, who composed for the churches and cathedrals of Avignon, Clermont-Ferrand, Montpellier and Dijon, produced a great number of sacred works to be performed by cathedral choirs. Only three examples from this highly creative period survive: In Convertendo, Deus Noster Refugium and Quam Dilecta Tabernacula. A fourth motet, Exultet coelum laudibus, is thought to have been lost. These works predate Rameau's move to Paris and must first have been heard within the walls of Dijon and Lyon. Joseph Casanéa of Mondonville, a native of Narbonne who died on the hilltops of Belleville, in Paris, was as well-known in his day as Jean-Philippe Rameau and far more celebrated. He conducted the famous Concert Spirituel and his grand motets combine emotion with a dance-like theatricality in perfect harmony with the decorative spirit of Sevandoni, the architect and decorator of Saint-Sulpice and of Saint-Bruno in Lyon.The grand French motet is part of the genetic make-up of Les Arts Florissants who have led the way in the rediscovery of sacred music by Henry Desmarest, Rameau, Campra and Mondonville. Although quite often recorded, such works can only be fully appreciated in full-scale live performance, during which the prodigious talents of William Christie, the orchestra and, in particularl, the chorus of Les Arts Florissants will be displayed to the full. The soloists, who all possess the high degree of technical mastery required by a genre situated between opera and introspection, include Cyril Auvity and Marc Mauillon, two singers of exquisite musicality, the bass Cyril Costanzo, whose talent was discovered at the sixth edition of Le Jardin des Voix, and the sopranos Rachel Redmond and Katherine Watson.Programme Rameau, Quam dilecta Mondonville, Dominus regnavit Mondonville, In exitu Israel Rameau, In convertendo Dominum
Cast Rachel Redmond, Katherine Watson, sopranos Reinoud Van Mechelen, high tenor Cyril Auvity, tenorMarc Mauillon, baritone Cyril Costanzo, bass.
Choir and orchestra of Les Arts FlorissantsWilliam Christie