Reviewed by Steven Whitehead
Please bear with a brief history lesson to get the context. Louis XVI was the last king of France in the line of Bourbon monarchs preceding the French Revolution of 1789. Louis and his queen consort, Marie-Antoinette, were guillotined in 1793 on charges of counter-revolution. Following the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, the Bourbons returned to power in France and restored the monarchy under Louis XVIII. During this process, they also introduced a number of symbolic acts as a public representation of the Bourbon dynasty. In 1815, King Louis XVIII had the remains of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette removed from the Cimetière de la Madeleine in a solemn ceremony, taken to Saint Denis and placed in separate graves in the crypt. It therefore came about that Jean Paul Egide Martini (1741-1816), "Surintendant de la musique du roi" and composer of the famous "Plaisir d Amour", was offered the prestigious commission to compose the first large-scale Requiem in memory of Louis XVI. His work was first performed in the Cathedral of Saint Denis on 21st January 1816, the anniversary of the execution and finally, in 2016, it receives its debut recording from a performance at Freystadt, Martini's birthplace. Worth the wait? To these ears, absolutely. As well as sacred music Martini also composed operas and this Requiem is indeed operatic with strong solos and a rousing accompaniment from the period musicians of La Banda. One of the stately homes in my part of the world often puts on "Battle Proms", open air concerts that usually conclude with the "1812" complete with cannons and cavalry. The Louis XVI Requiem with its sounding brass (but no cannons) would not sound out of place on such a programme and listeners who enjoy widescreen baroque music will not fail to be entertained by this. Whether it works as an act of worship is another matter entirely although I rather suspect it was not really written with that in mind. Also included is the brief but powerful "De Profundis" by Martini's fellow countryman Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787) and the two pieces sit well together.
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