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Jean-Baptiste MORIN (1677-1754)
French Cantatas
Le Naufrage d’Ulisse: Cantate IVe à voix seule et simphonie [22:38]
Circé: Troisieme Cantate [13:50]
Suite from L’Himen et l’Amour, Épithalame [11:17]
Psiché et ses soeurs: Cantate VIe à trois voix [29:27]
Stefanie True (soprano), Zsuzsi Tóth (soprano), Michaela Riener (mezzo-soprano)
Ensemble Lautenwerk/Giulio Quirici
rec. 2017, The Oud Katholieke Kerk, Delft, The Netherlands
ET’CETERA KTC1635 [77:12]

Jean-Baptiste Morin is one of those French baroque composers whom I only knew from reading about the period. This disc, then, is a most welcome discovery.

Born in Orléans, Morin rose through the musical ranks to become Ordinaire de la Musique to Philippe, Duke of Orléans and the Regent. He would later become Maître de musique of Louise Adélaïde d'Orléans, the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV of France and his mistress, Madame de Montespan. He composed many fine works, of which his cantatas are the best known. Three are included here. (He is also remembered for his divertissement La Chasse du cerf, part of which provided the hunting call for Haydn’s Symphony No. 73.)

Morin was one of the French musicians and composers who got caught up in the Querelle des Bouffons, the argument over the primacy of French or Italian music. He sought to produce music that offered the best of both worlds; that was the preferred outcome for the Regent, who surrounded himself with Italian musicians, and at whose court Morin still served. The disc offers music in the ‘new way’. The three cantates françaises clearly show Italianate influences. The suite from L’Himen et l’Amour, Épithalame still has traditionally French aspects of the dance suite; there are also clearly Italian movements, such as the final Chaconne.

My favourite cantata here is Le Naufrage d’Ulisse. It tells the story of the shipwrecking of Ulysses. The soprano Stefanie True excellently brings out the drama of the text to the fore. She colours her voice to show the full rage of emotions that this story calls for, and so brings the character to life. Circé, also very good, calls for some detailed and complex singing. In Psiché et ses soeurs, the only cantata presented here that calls for more than one voice, Stefanie True is joined by the soprano Zsuzsi Tóth and the mezzo Michaela Riener. There is some nice interplay between the singers, especially in the final trio section. It would be good to know who is singing which part: Aglaure, Cidippe and Psiché. Still, all vocalists are excellent and well matched, and complement each other well.

The playing of the Ensemble Lautenwerk is excellent throughout. They really come to the fore in the suite from L’Himen et l’Amour, Épithalame. They interact sympathetically with the vocalists, especially in the solo cantatas. The intimate recorded sound favours the musicians. The booklet gives a good introduction to Jean-Baptiste Morin, and to the period in which he was active. It touches on his music, but more details of the works presented here would have been nice. The booklet notes are in English, French and German. The sung texts are only presented in the original French. One hopes that this ensemble and vocalists go on to record more of Morin’s eighteen cantates françaises.

Stuart Sillitoe

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