The instrumental works of Marc-Antoine Charpentier are familiar to very few people. A large number of them were composed for use in churches, the most famous of these being the Messe pour plusieurs instruments au lieu des orgues that has already been recorded by Jean Tubéry and La Fenice for Ricercar (RIC 245). Charpentier composed the Sonate à huit around 1685, at a time when various private musical societies were exploring the Italian sonata style. Charpentier discovered this style at the same time as François Couperin, who also set about composing sonatas in the Italian style. Charpentier’s Sonate à huit blends the Italian style with the French suite of dances and as such is one of the masterpieces of instrumental music of the French baroque. The symphonies Pour un Reposoir were intended to accompany an outdoor procession, an organ naturally not being available. The greater part of the CD, however, is taken up by the Noëls pour les Instruments which Charpentier set for instrumental ensemble and organ. We have also recorded the original versions of the above-mentioned Christmas carols, complete with their many verses as they appeared in French collections published at the beginning of the 18th century. This recording of Christmas music can be enjoyed throughout the year!
This disc begins with the thirty-five minute 'Concerto for two Violins', which was never orchestrated, sadly, by Skalkottas, but is played in the version for two pianos and two violins. It is a scintillating three movement composition with a terrifically virtuosic ten minute rondo finale. I ended up breathless and full of admiration for the composer and especially the performers for whom this music cannot have been familiar. It doesn't take long to get into Skalkottas's language. Twelve tone yes but melodic and full of Greek dance rhythms as the first movement demonstrates. A unique blend…….To listen to Skalkottas is a unique experience perhaps a little hairshirt at times but like a glass of Retsina there is nothing else quite as memorable or as addictive.Gary Higginson @ www.musicweb-international.com