Gounod: Cantates et musique sacree / Niquet, Flemish Radio Choir, Brussels Philharmonic

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An icon of French Romanticism thanks to the enduring popularity of his operas Faust and Roméo et Juliette, Charles Gounod competed three times for the prestigious Prix de Rome between 1837 and 1839. Thus he composed three unpublished cantatas for soloists and orchestra, including Marie Stuart et Rizzio and La Vendetta, which he never had the opportunity to hear in performance. Revealed for the first time, these three cantatas, fine examples of French Romanticism, show a young composer with a remarkable flair for opera. In the end Fernand won him the coveted prize, carrying with it the privilege of a three-year stay (from 1840) at the Villa Medici in Rome. While there he produced several sacred compositions, which have also remained unknown until now. His splendid Messe vocale for unaccompanied choir, written in a neo-Palestrinian style, deserves a place on the programme of every vocal ensemble.



Although all the cantatas on Disc One tug with tension, the most poignant display of Gounod’s might falls inside Fernand. Akin to Karine Deshayes, Judith Van Wanroij’s Zelmire reveals remarkable, flexible dramatic delivery, and a buoyantly light timbre. Her lover, Alamir (sung by tenor Yu Shao), shines inside the lyrically French passages with excellent enunciation while Nicolas Courjal sings with such sensitivity to draw out the selfless tendencies of the Spaniard, Fernand. The music’s orchestral interludes anticipate Faust, yet there is a marked feel of Félicien David and his Herculanum. Brilliant from beginning to end.

The four selections on the second CD give variety through mixed voices and soothing organ accompaniment by François Saint-Yves. Hervé Niquet’s direction is pristine and well-reflected through the Flemish Radio Choir with well-balanced and attentive diction upon every turn of the page. Each composition suffuses platonic rapture: undemanding on the ear, lyrically light, sweet in melody.

Anyone who cherishes the magnificence of Charles Gounod would be well to collect this little treasure.

– ConcertoNet.com (Christie Grimstad)

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ES1030

  • UPC: 9788469758069

  • Label: Ediciones Singulares

  • Composer: Charles Gounod

  • Conductor: Hervé Niquet

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Brussels Philharmonic Orchestra, Flemish Radio Choir

  • Performer: Alexandre Duhamel, Artavazd Sargsyan, Caroline Meng, Chantal Santon-Jeffrey, François Saint-Yves, Gabrielle Philiponet, Judith van Wanroij, Nicolas Courjal, Sébastien Droy, Yu Shao