André Campra was one of France's leading musical figures in the early 18th century. He composed many works, both sacred and secular, both intimate works and large-scale pieces. His music tends to be both the logical continuation of the Lully tradition, and that of François Couperin, together with an influence from Italy.
The works on this recording are small motets; each for one or two voices accompanied either by solo organ or organ and violin. (One work, Récit de Tierce en taille, is the transcription for solo organ of a motet for one voice.)
This is very austere music - more in its scoring than its melody. A single soprano voice, or a duet of sopranos, sing light and airy melodies over a very subtle organ accompaniment in the first work, Cum invocarem exaudivit me Deus. While in some ways this recalls Couperin's Leçons des ténèbres, in others it recalls the Italian aria, especially in the duet sections, with the harmonies used between the two voices. Both singers have beautiful voices, and their tone fits perfectly both with the organ and with the acoustics of the church where this music was recorded.
The Salve Regina, for solo soprano and organ, is a fine, moving work. Raphaèle Kennedy's tone is again perfect, and her subtle use of vibrato adds a bit of spice to the music, without getting in its way.
The tone of the Domine, Dominus noster and Benedic anima mea Domino is slightly different, with the addition of a violin. While the same plaintive sound is present, the violin's part is a delightful addition to the music. At times playing melodies in harmony with the voice, at times in counterpoint, or even almost fugally repeating the melody, as in part of the Domine, Dominus noster. The music seems to come alive a bit more in this work; the violin gives it more energy and makes it sound a bit less stark. It recalls the way Bach uses the violin behind singers in the arias of his cantatas.
Récit de Tierce en taille is the transcription for solo organ of a motet for one voice, Ubi es, Deus meus. Melodically, this piece is similar to the work that precedes it on the recording. Yet, the transcription is not simply a transposition of such a melody. Organist Pierre-Adrien Charpy takes the melody and adapts it to the unique manner of organ playing of the period. The result is delightful - one wishes that this type of work were heard more often.
The final work, Tota pulchra es amica mea, for two sopranos and continuo, begins with a sort of passacaglia, where the bass plays a repeating melody, and the voices weave their melodies in variations over the accompaniment. It then goes on to several more aria-like sections, to finish with a brief reprise of the beginning.
This is a lovely recording - the voices are excellent, the sound is wonderful, and the music moving and intense. The only criticism is the relatively short timing of the disc, which definitely leaves this listener wanting to hear more.