Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 24 February 1704) was a French composer of the Baroque era.
Exceptionally prolific and versatile, Charpentier produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres. His mastery in writing sacred vocal music, above all, was recognized and hailed by his contemporaries.
Based on a program presented at the Boston Early Music Festival in 2011, this recording, made in a German radio studio in 2013, offers a pair of little-known short operas by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. One of the two, La descente d'Orphee aux enfers (not to be confused with a similarly titled cantata), either was left unfinished or has been partially lost; it is missing a finale and resolution to the plot.
The French Baroque air has not been much recorded, even in comparison with the earlier strophic air de cour. But the veteran ensemble Les Arts Florissants, under American-French director William Christie, having brought exposure to a good deal of previously unknown French music, is not slowing down in this regard, and this delightful collection of "serious and drinking airs" might well stimulate other performers to explore the repertory.
harpentier’s Médée is one of the glories of the Baroque. Medea’s betrayal by Jason, her comprehensive revenge and the plight of those caught up in this epic tragedy prompted Charpentier to compose music of devastating power. Transcending the constraints of the Lullian tragédie lyrique, he produced characterisations of astonishing complexity and invested vast stretches of music with a dramatic pace and a harmonic richness rivalled among contemporaries only by Purcell. The electrifying exchanges of the third act, mingling pathos with extreme violence, alone put Charpentier on the same imaginative level as Rameau and Berlioz. The machinations of the fourth act and the dénouement in the fifth maintain the same captivating impetus.
This is an attractive programme of comparatively rare vocal repertoire. Airs de cour by Charpentier (including verses from Corneille’s Le Cid) and Lambert are interpersed with instrumental movements from Couperin’s Les Nations. Cyril Auvity is an experienced advocate of the haute-contre repertoire and draws on all that experience to engage fully with the texts of these miniature dramas. His tone in the higher register can verge on the harsh, though this is a rare event.
With William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, relive Christmas Eve as it was celebrated in the France of Louis IV.
For twenty years William Christie and Les Arts Florrisants have contributed immeasurably to our understanding of Baroque opera. Unequalled in the French repertoire until Rameau, Médée far surpasses the finest work of his great rival Lully. Returning to this recording, I was struck by the rhythmic infectiousness and élan of concerted scenes, especially the divertissement which concludes act 2… Jan Smaczny