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Monday, October 12, 2020

Luigi Cherubini; Charles-Henri Plantade - Requiems (Hervé Niquet)


Composer: Luigi Cherubini; Charles-Henri Plantade
  • (01) Cherubini - Requiem No. 1 in C minor à la mémoire de Louis XVI
  • (08) Plantade - Messe des morts in D minor à la mémoire de Marie-Antoinette

Le Concert Spirituel
Hervé Niquet, conductor

Date: 2020
Label: Alpha



Hervé Niquet brings together two posthumous tributes to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette for the first time in a recording made in the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, rather than the Basilique de Saint-Denis where in 1815 they were finally laid to rest. On that occasion only Cherubini’s C minor Requiem was performed. Making its recording debut here is Charles-Henri Plantade’s Requiem, performed at another service in 1823 marking the 30th anniversary of the queen’s death. On first rehearsing the Plantade, Niquet tellingly observed: ‘Plantade wrote a work brimming over with emotion…but also one of ineffable gentleness, unspeakable brutality and respectful sweetness, which left us speechless after the final chords.’

Both works cast fascinating reflections on music of the past as well as offering intimations of the future. Cherubini’s, specifically commissioned for what was an important state occasion, is monumental in conception, symphonic in style. Neither requires vocal soloists; the Cherubini is scored for SATB whereas the Plantade is for SSTB. The vocal textures in each are mainly homorhythmic and antiphonal, presumably to convey the text more clearly, the retrospective fugal Kyrie of the Plantade proving the exception. Cherubini, perhaps in homage to Mozart, gives special prominence to the viola and bassoon while Plantade artfully substitutes horn for the trumpet of the Last Judgement; both composers – controversially for the time – employ tam-tam (gong) to chilling effect.

The Cherubini has been recorded many times (Toscanini and Giulini in the 1950s, Muti in 1982); the first period recording, sublime, by Boston Baroque under Martin Pearlman, appeared in 2007. Niquet brings fresh artistry and specifically French authority honed over decades with Le Concert Spirituel to both works. For me, this is a prize-winning disc.

-- Julie Anne Sadie, Gramophone


Luigi Cherubini (8 or 14 September 1760 – 15 March 1842) was an Italian Classical and Romantic composer. Although born and educated in Florence, Cherubini felt constrained by Italian traditions and always eager to experiment. He then traveled to London in 1785, and later settled in Paris, France, where he spent the rest of his life. During his lifetime, Cherubini received France's highest and most prestigious honors. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries, while his operas were heavily praised and interpreted by Rossini.


Charles-Henri Plantade (14 October 1764 – 18 December 1839) was a French classical composer and singing professor. He was born in Pontoise, a suburb of Paris, in a noble family. His compositions included several operas, numerous romances, sacred music, and a sonata for harp. He taught singing at the Conservatoire de Paris and was the maître de chapelle to the courts of Louis Bonaparte in Holland and Louis XVIII in France. From 1812 to 1815 he was also the singing master and stage director of the Paris Opéra. Plantade died in Paris at the age of 75. His elder son, Charles-François Plantade, was also a composer.


Hervé Niquet (born 28 October 1957) is a French conductor, harpsichordist, tenor, and the director of Le Concert Spirituel, specializing in French Baroque music. He studied harpsichord, composition, conducting, and opera singing. In 1980, he was appointed as the choir master of the Opéra National de Paris. Between 1985 and 1986, Niquet became a member of William Christie's Les Arts florissants as a tenor. In 1987, he established his own ensemble named Le Concert Spirituel which focuses on French grand motets of the 17th and 18th centuries. Niquet has recorded for such labels as Accord, Naxos and Glossa.


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