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The high quality of Campra’s music has yet perhaps to be fully appreciated. As well as being an innovator in the sphere of opéra-ballet he was a gifted composer of sacred music and an imaginative follower of Lully in the composition of tragédies lyriques. Tancrède is one such piece. Cast in the established pattern of a prologue and five acts, Antoine Danchet’s libretto recounts the tragic story of the lovers Tancred and Clorinda contained in Tasso’s epic poem ‘Gerusalemme liberata’. The opera was premiered in Paris in 1702 and enjoyed several revivals, in one of which the role of Herminie, in love with Tancred, was sung by Madame de Pompadour.

Listening to Campra’s score we quickly become aware of the composer’s intuitive skill in writing for the voice and his colourful and kinetic feeling for dance. Olivier Schneebeli and his équipe have recorded a live complete version of the work after a 30-year interval since Jean-Claude Malgoire made his live recording with cuts in Aix-en-Provence. The new version is stylistically more fluent than the other and the declamation more dramatic. While the Prologue gets offto an uncertain start with tenor Erwin Aros sounding strained, the performance gathers momentum and assurance. A few rough edges in the choruses did little to spoil my enjoyment. Benoît Arnould in the title role is authoritative and his ‘Sombres forêts’ (Act 4) passionately declaimed. A ravishing score, rated by Rameau a masterpiece.

Nicholas Anderson Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing