Delalande Sacred Choral Works
The two grands motets which feature in this new recording by Philippe Herreweghe contain some of the noblest and profoundest utterances by Delalande that I have yet encountered. The Dies irae dates from 1690, when it was composed for the funeral of the dauphine, Marie Anne Christine Victoire of Bavaria. Some 20 years later Delalande revised the work, perhaps as a tribute to the dauphin who died in 1711 or to the composer's two daughters; all were victims of smallpox within a period of six weeks. The Miserere, dating from 1687 was substantially revised as a motet a voix seule around the turn of the century; then, in 1720 Delalande returned to it once again, rewriting much of the earliest version but incorporating some of the changes he implemented in the second.
The Dies irae is harmonically rich and subtle in affect from start to finish. In the ravishing ''Pie Jesu'' which concludes the motet, Delalande comes close to Charpentier in his sighing, elegiac, transparently textured phrases, but for the rest occupies musical territory vastly different from his slightly older, more Italophile contemporary. The opening gestures of the initial movement—dark, pathetic and declamatory—command the listener's attention. Counterpoint yields to chordal harmony in the ''Quantus tremor'' but then follows what is perhaps a less characteristic aspect of the composer's style, a wonderfully effective setting of the ''Tuba mirum'' declaimed by the baritone accompanied by agitated repeated chords in the string parts. Only the text distinguishes this dramatic moment from being an infernal scene from a tragedie en musique. The remainder of the work is comparably well sustained and rich in contrasting ideas. Howard Crook is admirable in the ''Liber scriptus'', de- claiming the words with clarity and a feeling for metre. And he is part of a finely balanced trio of male voices in the affecting, chromatic and tenderly inspired ''Lacrimosa''.
The Miserere continues the prevailing C minor tonality and is, like the other work, a grief-laden utterance. The opening chorus with soprano solo is a superbly crafted movement, as is the impassioned concluding ''Benigne fac'' to which the choir of La Chapelle Royale does full justice. Among the many pleasing features of this performance is the singing of soprano Linda Perillo whose clear voice, unaffected technique and sure sense of pitch are a considerable adornment to the music. In summary, this is the most satisfying of the nouvelle vague Delalande recordings to date. The music is of a high order and is matched by Herreweghe's sensitive direction and by the excellence of his forces. Clear recorded sound completes a rewarding picture.'