The gorgeous early music releases of France's Alpha label, each illustrated with a relevant painting along with discussion of both the music and the artwork, offer a splendid introduction to the culture of the ancien régime. The discussions get down to the kind of depth that academics traffic in, yet the performances are by and large sensuous ones entrusted to some of France's best historical-instrument ensembles.
Henry du Mont was only French by adoption, originally coming from Liège. He was a prolific mid-17th century composer and wrote over three hundred compositions, mainly religious. His first collection of motets was published in 1652. His favourite vocal combination was the duo and half of the pieces in this collection are these. He exploits other combinations too, such as a top line, bass and upper violin part.
Henri Dumont is an important figure in the French Baroque scene in that he was one of the pioneers in the development of the "grands motets" that saw such fruit in the works of Lully, Delaland, Campra, Charpentier, Rameau and others. From what I've heard of his music, it tends to be a bit more subdued and sombre that a lot of the festive and almost manic works from some of the others mentioned. This disc has four motets, one of which; Dialogus de anima, has been recorded before. I have the versions by Herreweghe and Rousset.
Before you play the first track of this disc, make sure you're in quiet surroundings and ready to listen closely. You'll hear a pure yet sensuous soprano voice slip gently out of the silence and sing a melody that manages to be haunting and virtuosic at the same time–only to be followed by a similar voice doing the same thing. The two voices coil around each other (with some gleaming suspensions) for a full minute before instruments join them. And that's just the beginning of this marvelous disc of motets by François Couperin, a composer better known for his keyboard and chamber music. Most of these pieces were written to accompany the Elevation of the Host (the most solemn moment of the Roman Catholic liturgy), so you won't hear much exuberance.