Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vahegyi
Glossa GCD 924013
Charles-Hubert Gervais (1671-1744) became one of the sous-maitres of the Chapelle du Roy in 1722, one of those to benefit from the re-establishment and re-vamping of the court’s musical institutions after the relatively austere Regency years. He composed more than 40 grands motets, some of which remained in the repertoire right up to the Revolution. These are very much ‘after Lalande’ – indeed, the elder man’s music is alluded to or even quoted from time to time – but in many respects Gervais is very much his own man. Unusually, he often reduces the orchestral texture from its traditional five parts to three (violin, viola and bass) and is inclined to eschew vocal virtuosity in favour of more restrained expressive effects, such as harmony, despite his background in the theatre.
Among the soloists, haute-contre Cyrille Dubois is the stand-out, with the range, taste, and skill to deliver his music beautifully. The other soloists are never less than good, though all are guilty from time to time of trying to do a bit too much with their music. Choir and Orchestra are also on good form, and I note that, whereas in their earlier days, there was a significant number of western European players, almost all are now home-grown.
The booklet (in English, French and German) offers its thorough and interesting essay in all three languages though the Latin texts are translated only into English and there is no information about the artists.