An almost exact contemporary of François Couperin and only some 15 years older than Rameau, Michel Pignolet de Montéclair taught the children of the first-named and debated music theory with the latter. He is credited with introducing the new contrabass to the Paris opera orchestra of which he was a member, wrote a treatise on teaching, Petite méthode pour apprendre la musique, and in 1721 opened a music shop. But he was also a composer working in all the genres current at the time, including that of the chamber cantata for one or two voices and strings. During his lifetime 24 such works were published in three different collections, dealing mainly with subjects from classical history or mythology. The texts are anonymous, the large majority being in French with four Italian ones, including La Morte di Lucretia, recorded here. One of the challenges for the composer in these mini-operas with their restricted instrumentation is to provide an effective backcloth for the action with the limited means at his disposal. Thus a violin in one cantata first imitates Diana’s hunting horns, and then, by being fitted with a mute, Pan’s newly cut pipe. The trumpets celebrating The Return of Peace are quite satisfactorily suggested by unison violins, and the shepherd’s bagpipes are alluded to by two bass viols in Le Triomfe de la Constance. Emma Kirkby and London Baroque have previously demonstrated their grasp of the format, with recordings of solo cantatas by Handel that have met with great acclaim, for instance in BBC Music Magazine (’Emma Kirkby’s virtuosity is splendid, but so is her characterisation... London Baroque lends admirable support… Outstanding’) and in the German magazine Fono Forum (’Emma Kirkby performs the pieces with profound insights into human thought and emotions… and her interaction with London Baroque demonstrates in an impressive manner how a common musical understanding has matured and strengthened during years of collaboration.’)
"...The five chamber cantatas presented here (Montéclair wrote 24) are full of interest and imagination, revealing their composer’s ability to mould the music to genuinely sympathetic ends while retaining his French classical poise... these performances are as stylish as one could wish ... Montéclair is certainly worth getting to know."
Lindsay Kemp - Gramophone magazine - January 2012