Kirby Reigns As Queen Of Baroque

Dame Emma Kirby cements her formidable reputation with Montéclair works that she instills with grace and lightness

Composer: Montéclair
Repertoire:  Solo cantatas: Le Retour de la Paix; Pan et Syrinx; Le Triomfe de la Constance; La mort de Didon; La Morte di Lucretia
Artists: Emma Kirkby (sop), London Baroque
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Vocal
Label: BIS BIS-CD-1865

The Music: As teacher, theorist and composer Montéclair taught Couperin’s children, argued about harmony with Rameau and wrote 24 cantatas on classical subjects – Pan and Syrinx, the rape of Lucretia – five of which are included here. Each is for voice, continuo and solo string instrument. None is authentically performable without knowledge of the ‘18 principal singing ornamaents’ in Montéclair’s Method for Learning Music.

The Performance: Kirkby embellishes every note with a grace, lightness and sparkle which other sopranos in careers half as long have already lost. Her taste serves expression. Baroque swirls, shakes, roulades and turns float as weightlessly as cherubs on a church ceiling. Her silences surrounding Lucretia’s death are as eloquent as her harrowing sighs. She engages with the instruments. Voice and violin mimic each other in the death of Dido while in Triomfe de la Constance, the sombre gamba is her echo. Pan’s love for Syrinx is even greater for Kirkby’s account.

The Verdict: Kirkby is still peerless in a repertoire she herself is constantly expanding. Her unflagging study of Baroque practice and her research into the legacy of forgotten composers maintain her pre-eminence.

Want More? The same team(almost)
performs Handel’s Sacred Cantatas on
BIS (BIS-CD-1065).