There is little in the way of a clear theme tying together this collection of Baroque works, which includes music by English and Italian composers, instrumental and vocal, secular and sacred, performed by the French group Ensemble Amarillis with soprano Patricia Petibon and tenor Jean-François Novelli. For the listener looking for a general assortment of pieces from the Baroque era, performed with lively energy, this could be just the thing. Outstanding are the vocal tracks featuring Petibon and Novelli. Petibon, whose jewel-like high soprano shines in the music of Purcell and Francesco Mancini, is a pleasure. Her tone is absolutely pure and completely secure. The Purcell works, in particular, give her an opportunity to put on display a remarkable array of tonal colors and subtly differentiated dramatic shadings; her performance of the lament "The Plaint" is a marvel of musical and dramatic expressiveness. She is equally at home in the perky, irrepressibly sexy "Sound the trumpet," in which she's joined by Novelli. They (with Purcell's assistance) make the text into a metaphor for charged erotic anticipation, full of provocative double entendres that are not at all apparent on the page, but which, in this performance, leap out with gleeful naughtiness. The instrumental tracks are not, on the whole, as successful. The performances are vivacious, and the repertoire is ingratiating and often fun, but recorder and oboe player Héloise Gaillard has intonation issues that are annoyingly distracting. The sound is very clean and intimate, but perhaps too closely miked; Gaillard's intakes of breath and incidental ambient sounds are clearly picked up. The delightful vocal performances more than make up for any caveats, though, and make this a disc that's not to be missed.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Come ye sons of art away (Birthday ode for Queen Mary), for soloists, chorus & instruments, Z. 323|
Sound the trumpet, beat the drum (Welcome Ode for James II), for 2 altos, tenors, basses, chorus, strings & continuo, Z. 335