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I know, it sounds like Jean- Paul Gaultier is coming to tea, but actually it is Marie Fel, top French soprano from 1734 into the ’60s – a high old time in French music from Lully’s successors to Rameau and Rousseau. Voltaire called her ‘the adorable nightingale’. I’m sure Jeffery Skidmore and Ex Cathedra won’t mind me saying this is a very English interpretation, to follow their 2003 Rameau disc, also starring Carolyn Sampson. It has an early-music, cathedral-city chastity and purity in place of that airy French fantasy and indulgence; I rather like it, but if you want the untrammelled, wild sound- world of Rameau and co., best look elsewhere. The programme is beautifully chosen, with plenty of whirling vivacity, through to the rapt, unadorned contemplation of Mondonville’s gorgeous motets. Sampson sings it all beautifully: words, affect, heart and spirit in everything, plus the most natural-sounding control in the coloratura. A really lovely disc of rare and beautiful music, performed with love – typical Hyperion, surely everyone’s favourite label.

Robert Thicknesse Read the full review on Agora Classica


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