CHERUBINI; PLANTADE Requiems
Hervé Niquet brings together two posthumous tributes to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette for the first time in a recording made in the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, rather than the Basilique de Saint-Denis where in 1815 they were finally laid to rest. On that occasion only Cherubini’s C minor Requiem was performed. Making its recording debut here is Charles-Henri Plantade’s Requiem, performed at another service in 1823 marking the 30th anniversary of the queen’s death. On first rehearsing the Plantade, Niquet tellingly observed: ‘Plantade wrote a work brimming over with emotion…but also one of ineffable gentleness, unspeakable brutality and respectful sweetness, which left us speechless after the final chords.’
Both works cast fascinating reflections on music of the past as well as offering intimations of the future. Cherubini’s, specifically commissioned for what was an important state occasion, is monumental in conception, symphonic in style. Neither requires vocal soloists; the Cherubini is scored for SATB whereas the Plantade is for SSTB. The vocal textures in each are mainly homorhythmic and antiphonal, presumably to convey the text more clearly, the retrospective fugal Kyrie of the Plantade proving the exception. Cherubini, perhaps in homage to Mozart, gives special prominence to the viola and bassoon while Plantade artfully substitutes horn for the trumpet of the Last Judgement; both composers – controversially for the time – employ tam-tam (gong) to chilling effect.
The Cherubini has been recorded many times (Toscanini and Giulini in the 1950s, Muti in 1982); the first period recording, sublime, by Boston Baroque under Martin Pearlman, appeared in 2007. Niquet brings fresh artistry and specifically French authority honed over decades with Le Concert Spirituel to both works. For me, this is a prize-winning disc.