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Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Litanies De La Vierge, Motets Pour La Maison De Guise.

MARC-ANTOINE CHARPENTIER: Litanies De La Vierge, Motets Pour La Maison De Guise

composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier preformed by Sebastien Dauce

and Ensemble Correspondances produced by Harmonia Mundi, 2013 *

HMC902169 * 93 minutes * price $39.76

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Ensemble Correspondances was founded in 2009, this is only their third recording but such is their refined polish and delivery that one would think them a seasoned ensemble. This is borne out by the director Dauces (harpsichord & organ) relating in the CD notes that he has lived with these works for six voices for fifteen years. The group has concentrated on 17th century French repertoire, especially Moulinie and Charpentier. All three of their recordings have received wide critical acclaim.

Charpentier studied in Italy when he was young with Carissimi, the greatest composer in Rome of his generation.

When he returned to France he had been intensely influenced by his mentor and his music revealed Italian musical stylizations. The French in this period were forging their national style of music and the young Louis XIV wanted only French style music at his court. Subsequently Charpentier never received a court position although Louis heard and admired his work. He lived and worked in Paris and was taken up by Madame de Guise, the last surviving member of a fabulously rich ducal family out of favour of the king. She had lived in Italy when a youth and loved Italian music. Charpentier moved into her Paris mansion and directed her music until she died in 1688. Madame de Guise had four-hundred servants in her employ and he auditioned them all to find the best singers and instrumentalists. Eventually this tight knit family working for the music (religious and entertainment) of Madame de Guise were recognized as the best group in France after the King's own musical establishments.

The intimacy, purity and harmony of these works for six voices (three sopranos, haut-contre, tenor and bass), composed for Madame de Guise is self-evident. Not only are they deeply spiritual and reverent they reflect a vivid internality, without musical mannerisms, or virtuosity for its own sake. The instrumental parts support the Latin texts and embellish them but are never overpowering. There was no need for ego or ambition here, these compositions were crafted for a patron who was a deeply Christian woman: generous, devout with no need to impress anyone. Charpentier is now valued for his openhanded humanity and high level of quality that is universal in his output. Nothing he wrote is second-rate. Living in this sympathetic environment produced his singular artistic voice that we recognize today for its integrity and a great feel for the common man and the vagaries of human life. The intimacy of these works is reflected in the fact that Charpentier composed, sang the haute-contre part and was the copyist of the scores.

The repertoire includes a Miserere H.193, Annunciate superi, H.333, the Litanies de la Vierge H.83 and two instrumental works. One of which is an Overture, H. 536 for the investiture of a bishop, a beautifully grave work, appropriate to the ceremony. "Psalm 51, Miserere mei Deus, one or the seven penitential psalms was sung or recited at Lauds on the three days of Holy Week and in the Office of the Dead'.', writes Catherine Cessac in the excellent CD essay. Cessac is the greatest Charpentier musicologist in the world today and has devoted her entire professional life to his work. She has been seminal in the modern dissemination of his oeuvre.

Dwyer is an artist, performer, and musicologist writing from Combermere. Ontario.
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Author:Dwyer, Paul-James
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Feb 1, 2015
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