William Christie formed the ensemble Les Arts Florissants (the name taken from an opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier), in 1979, primarily to explore the music of the French Baroque, which was then largely unknown to the general public. The group, which includes both instrumentalists and singers, has succeeded in bringing to light an incredibly rich repertoire from not only France, but from all over Europe, encompassing opera, choral, orchestral, vocal, and instrumental music. Christie's performances here, and throughout his career, are characterized by the clarity of his vision, his lively intelligence, and his imaginative musicianship. He also has a gift for surrounding himself with top-notch performers, and the soloists represented here include mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, soprano Sandrine Piau, bass Neal Davies, and contre-haute Paul Agnew. From its discography of hundreds of recordings, this single disc brings together a tiny sampling of 17 tracks from albums made for Virgin/EMI between 2003 and 2007. The selections range from the very familiar ("Ombra mai fù," from Handel's Xerxes) to obscure hymns by Purcell and liturgical music by Charpentier and Campra. Each of these tantalizingly brief movements, arias, or choruses is a gem, an enticement to seek out the complete album from which it was taken. Virgin's sound is crystal-clear, but warmly ambient.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Te Deum, H. 146|
|Sonata in D major, Op. 1/13, HWV 371|
|Judicium Salomonis, H. 422|
|Exaudiat Te Dominus|