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Charpentier: Litanies De La Vierge, Motets / Sebastien Dauce, Ensemble Correspondances,

Charpentier / Ensemble Correspondances / Dauce
Release Date: 08/13/2013 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 902169  
Composer:  Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews


After a couple of years studying in Rome, in 1669 at age 26 Marc-Antoine Charpentier returned to Paris and was immediately recruited by Marie de Lorraine, Duchesse de Guise as her house composer. By all accounts he was very happy at the Hôtel de Guise, remaining there for nearly 20 years, leaving only upon the event of Mademoiselle de Guise’s death in 1688. All of the works on this program were composed roughly between 1683 and 1685 when Charpentier was at the height of his inspirational and creative powers, surrounded by what Ensemble Correspondances director Sébastien Daucé describes as a resident “group of faithful singers and musicians” which he compares to “friends and
Read more family”.

With the exception of the Litanies de la Vierge that has received a number of excellent performances on LP and CD over the years, the remaining selections here (especially the instrumental pieces) are quite rare. That this neglect is unwarranted is clear from the outset as Daucé and colleagues begin the program with the richly varied, often sonorously intricate Miserere H.193. After an introduction with organ and strings setting the theme, the six vocal soloists gradually enter; as the work evolves, the complexity of the duets, trios, and quartets shifts quite dramatically. For example, the fourth-movement Libera me opens with a bass aria, which, after being abruptly eclipsed by the sopranos, tapers to soprano and tenor solos, followed by a series of spirited exchanges between the groups of male and female soloists (enhanced nicely by the production that places the men to the far left and the women to the far right), all within a matter of less than three very memorable minutes.

The equally rare Annunciate superi H.333, while more instrumentally and vocally conventional than the Miserere, is just as beautiful. The solos and polyphonic exchanges here are more straightforward in celebration of the Virgin–a subject dear to Duchesse Guise as well as to Charpentier (the litany of the Virgin would continue to inspire Charpentier more than any other subject throughout his life). The concluding brief Psalite ergo populi is especially lovely.

Concluding the program is the Litanies de la Vierge H.83, and in spite of significant competition, this rendition by Ensemble Correspondances rivals the best. While slightly slower than Les Arts Florissants (also Harmonia Mundi) and slightly quicker than Le Concert des Nations (Astrée), Ensemble Correspondances overall delivers more exuberant instrumental and (especially) vocal performances. The entrance of the sopranos in the uplifting Speculum justitiae, for instance, is comparably much brighter, sung with an enthusiasm and alacrity so appropriate to this setting celebrating justice, wisdom, and well, joy! Many ensembles have recorded this gorgeous piece, but this performance now tops my list.

The instrumental interludes are equally worthwhile. The introductory flutes that begin the brief Antienne H.526 are eventually joined by strings and continuo, doubling and redoubling one another in charming fugal bliss. The lengthier Ouverture H.536 is somewhat more varied, consisting of two contrasting yet harmonious sections. While the strings predominate, the way Charpentier integrates the winds, harpsichord, and theorbe, while conventional for instrumental music of this period, is nonetheless remarkably beautiful.

The sound is top notch, delivering exceptional instrumental and vocal clarity without compromising the acoustic presence of the ensemble as a whole. As usual with musicologist Catherine Cessac, her informative historical overview is a joy to read–as is ensemble director Daucé’s essay focusing on aspects of life at the Hôtel de Guise. Intelligently conceived, expertly performed, gorgeously recorded, and in turn, highly recommended.

-- John Greene, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Pro omnibus festis B.V.M., H 333 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1683-1685 
2.
Ouverture pour le sacre d’un évęque, H 536 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?early 1690s; France 
3.
Miserere des Jésuits, H 193 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1683-1685; France 
4.
Litanies de la vierge, H 83 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1683-1685 
5.
Antienne, H 526 by Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Conductor:  Sébastien Daucé
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Correspondances
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?late 1680s; France 

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