Musicologists gravitate toward centers of power, and, especially in the realm of French music, composers who worked outside Paris have been almost completely neglected. Charles Levens, a native of Marseilles, was one of a group of composers who traveled from city to city in France during the eighteenth century, working mostly in Bordeaux. Roughly contemporary with Rameau, he does not much stylistically resemble that master here; the nearest comparison, in his large spatial realms marked out by tempo shifts and contrasts between chorus and solo ensemble, would be Campra. Yet there is a melodic quality to his work, with tunes bubbling out of the spaces in the larger architecture of the piece, that is all his own; annotator Edith Deyris attributes it to "the melodic spontaneity of Provençal music." It all adds up to an exceptionally informal and detailed response to the text on the composer's part, showcased ideally here by the two requiem masses on the disc. Mostly in major keys, they have a warm quality that sets them apart from the Mozart Requiem in D minor and indeed most other mass settings of the eighteenth century.
The instrumental forces solely consist of a basso continuo, here realized by organ, a cello, and two bassoons. The music is intimate, and one imagines it was comforting for those who heard it -- and made a more direct impression than that created by the rather tentative soloists and distant sound engineering on display here; no information about the recording location is given in the booklet.
Still, this recording, originally released on the small Lira d'Arco label, has revived a composer with a distinctive style that speaks directly to the modern listener; it fully merited reissue.
Notes are in English, French, and German; the mass text is given only in Latin and English.
|Messe des Morts No. 1 in F major for 4 voices, chorus & continuo|
|Agnus Dei||Michel Laplénie||3:10|
|Lux Aeterna||Michel Laplénie||3:01|
|Libera me||Michel Laplénie||7:59|
|Messe des Morts No. 2 in F major for 4 voices, chorus & continuo|
|Agnus Dei||Michel Laplénie||1:55|
|Lux Aeterna||Michel Laplénie||2:54|
|Libera me||Michel Laplénie||6:20|