Carolyn Sampson

A French Baroque Diva

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Both the music and especially the central figure on this release by British soprano Carolyn Sampson will be largely unfamiliar to most listeners, for the vocal music of the French Baroque has received many fewer contextual studies on recordings than its English and Italian counterparts. Marie Fel was the star singer of mid-18th century Paris, a Bordeaux native who was discovered by an agent of the Paris Opera when she was 20. Roughly as Senesino was to Handel, she was an inspiration to Rameau, and many other composers wrote for her as well. Sampson tries to penetrate Fel's musicality, and the album is not just a compilation of works associated with her. She sings a sacred aria (Joseph Hector Fiocco's Laudate pueri, track 12) with the ornamentation Fel herself wrote out, and she even ventures into the Occitan language, which Fel spoke natively, for the extremely unusual Gasouillats auzeléts by Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville (track 11). Speakers of Occitan are invited to judge her pronunciation (an English translation is included), but even those with no particular interest in the history of singing will be struck by the variety of Fel's repertoire, which ranged from the older Lully style of French opera to the bright simplicity of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Salve regina of 1752 (not a common item either). Sampson's voice is not absolutely comfortable when forced to do acrobatics at the top of its range, but for the most part she lives up to d'Aquin's description of Fel's instrument as "always lovely, always seductive." Her range is matched by that of the instrumental group Ex Cathedra under Jeffrey Skidmore, which is called upon to deliver a variety of theatrical effects. Highly recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 9:01
Exsurgat Deus, S71
2 2:29
Te Deum laudamus, S32
3 1:48
4 1:57
5 3:22
Salve regina
6 4:31
7 0:50
8 4:17
Castor et Pollux
9 7:02
10 3:07
Daphnis et Alcimadure
11 3:48
Laudate pueri
12 1:31
13 3:19
14 1:53
Venite, exsultemus
15 3:03
Les surprises de l'Amour
16 3:43
17 1:52
18 1:53
19 3:35
20 1:44
Cantate Domino, S72
21 5:07
Venite, exsultemus
22 2:53
blue highlight denotes track pick