The composer involved in this release, Jean-Paul égide Martini (1741-1816), will be unknown to most listeners, and his rediscovery by Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel represents a major event. German born, Martini flourished in France and managed to ride out the entire revolutionary period as a productive composer, with the exception of the "Reign of Terror" (he got the hell out of Dodge). True to form, when the monarchy was restored in 1814, Martini, by then in old age, published this Requiem for Louis XVI, which he had published a few years before. What made all of this possible was that Martini seems to have kept up with the times, mastering the weighty revolutionary styles of Luigi Cherubini and others, and feeding them back into this serious proto-Romantic mass. Listen to the highly operatic Elevatione or the big Dies irae that could easily have been written 50 years later. Niquet avoids early music sparsity, with a strong choir of about 40, bulked up with an hautes-contre trio, and a substantial orchestra about ten souls bigger that includes four bassoons, serpent, and a tam-tam. The three soloists give muscular, full-throated performances, and in general, the mass has an imposing tone that must have made a fabulous impression in 1814. It will likely do similarly for any choir that adopts the work today. Impressive sound from the Chapelle Royale at Versailles is another major attraction here. The album closes with Hector Berlioz's arrangement of La Marseillaise. Whether Berlioz knew the Requiem is unknown, but it would be no surprise at all if he did.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Requiem Pour Louis XVI|