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Charpentier, Lully: Te Deum / Dumestre, Le Poeme Harmonique

Charpentier / Le Poeme Harmonique / Dumestre
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Alpha Productions   Catalog #: 952   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Marc-Antoine CharpentierJean-Baptiste Lully
Conductor:  Vincent Dumestre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella CracoviensisLe Poème Harmonique
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 55 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CHARPENTIER Te Deum. LULLY Te Deum Vincente Dumestre, cond; Le Poème Harmonique; Capella Cracoviensis (period instruments) ALPHA 962 (55:34 Text and Translation)

Most composers during the time of Louis XIV had learned to live with the musical situation at Versailles. His maître de chapelle , Jean-Baptiste Lully, held as autocratic a sway over the Read more court establishment as Louis did over the realm, but there were a plethora of talented musicians who all together set a standard that was renowned far and wide as the epitome of cultured style. For church music, Lully had a hit-and-miss reputation for its composition. He was, of course, required to provide the grands motets for his employer at the drop of a hat, but in general he was quite indifferent to the normal musical requirements of the church, even at the private worship of the royal family. This left room for others, such as Marc-Antoine Charpentier, to indulge in creating works that were more practicable. But on special occasions, and in France of the period, just about anything qualified when it came to Louis: All of the stops were pulled and sacred works became the foundation of grand celebratory events.

Such are the works that are recorded here, a pair of grand Te Deums by these two important composers of the ancient régime . Lully’s work was created in 1677 for the birth of his own son, but with royal patronage in mind, since Louis was the godfather. As intended, it was taken up and became a sort of paean to the court, pompous and magnificently celebratory. Charpentier’s work, however, seems to have been written somewhat later, perhaps even as late as 1690 after Lully had been safely dead for a few years. It also had a life, albeit a more formal one, being used to celebrate the French victory at Steinkerque in 1692. In both cases, the works, grand and eloquent as they are, were fraught with peril. It would seem that a particularly virulent hemorrhoid plagued the King, and his recovery from this pain in the rear, no mean feat in that time, meant a special celebration was in order. That concluded with a performance of said Te Deum, during which Lully apparently got over-enthusiastic and smashed his own foot beating time with his staff, resulting in his demise a few weeks later. Charpentier’s work was ironically the last time that Louis actually won a battle, and its magnificence probably rang hollow on subsequent occasions as the French were defeated time and time again by all and sundry.

The works are typically royal in their conception. Each is subdivided into sections, both choral and solo, accompanied at the opening and throughout by a battery of timpani and trumpets. The Charpentier actually seems to open with a military victory prelude, sounding for all the world like it belongs on Masterpiece Theatre, replete with high, shrill flageolets. The intonation of the Te Deum laudamus is a masculine pronouncement, following which a more solemn double chorus leads the prayer Te aeternum patrem replete with imitative effects of the solo voices, here performed by members of the Poème harmonique ensemble. Both the reflective Ter ergo quaesumus and Dignare Domine with their lyrical moments set up the pompous final In te Domine speravi . Ordinarily this would be contrapuntal, but here it is merely imitative. Lully’s work is equally as grand, but it opens with a royal fanfare and a startling virtuoso duet and a nicely imitative chorus. It is all spectacle and power, far fuller in texture than the Charpentier. Lully uses his instruments and textural differences far more adventurously, and indeed one seems immersed more in the world of opera than the church. The various groups weave in and out of each other, as do the soloists and chorus, and in the final In te Domine one finds an impressive bookend chorus with skirling pipes and trumpets, as benefitted a magnificent king. The difficulty keeping the various lines together also explains why Lully perhaps got a tad too excited on this occasion.

Both works have been recorded fairly regularly. The Lully, for example, was given a nice rendition by Le Concert Spirituel on Naxos some time ago, and Jean-François Paillard used it as one of his signature works on Erato, which was re-released a couple of years back from an original performance of some 20 or so years ago. William Christie’s group did the Charpentier in 2006 on Harmonia Mundi in a rather nice performance. But this one does come from the Royal Chapel at Versailles itself, and although it bills itself as a live concert recording, the engineering makes it seem like the groups were in a very live studio. The sound is very live, which is exactly what is required for these festive pieces. Dumestre and his ensemble do the works proud, giving them the precise amount of power and precision that is required. The movements flow evenly into one another, and he takes particular care of these transitions and tempos so that the changes are not too radical. The singers are all quite on pitch and take their interactive solos with ease and dexterity. The chorus follows along quite well, with the differences between the large and small ensembles not as exaggerated as happens on some other recordings, notably the Naxos. This disc not only shows a fine comparison between these two contemporaneous works, but also gives it the royal quality with which both composers endowed their compositions.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Te Deum in D major, H 146 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Vincent Dumestre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Cracoviensis,  Le Poème Harmonique
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa ?1690; France 
Date of Recording: 03/25/2013 
Venue:  Chapelle royale du Château de Versailles 
Length: 16 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Te Deum, LWV 55 by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Conductor:  Vincent Dumestre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capella Cracoviensis,  Le Poème Harmonique
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1677; France 
Date of Recording: 03/25/2013 
Venue:  Chapelle royale du Château de Versailles 
Length: 2 Minutes 57 Secs. 

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