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.
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.
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
This programme completes the Comédie et Tragédie project with Tempesta di Mare, and consists of suites made up of orchestral excerpts from three dramatic works of the French stage, spanning seventy-three years, all highlighting the importance of dance as a part of drama.
The Sicilian nobleman Sigismondo d'India was roughly contemporary with Monteverdi (both began their careers around 1600); the musical ferment of that period led, in d'India's case, to a very heady brew. His madrigals–duets, solos and five-voice works–are like inebriated Monteverdi: d'India set the Italian poetic texts (usually dealing with a lover's pain) with even less regard for academic counterpoint and even more surprising twists of harmony than did his more-famous colleague, yet the music never veers into the disorienting, seemingly willful weirdness of Gesualdo.
It would not, perhaps, be too much of a stretch to think of Marc-Antoine Charpentier as a sort of late 17th century Poulenc. Poulenc is known for two distinct artistic faces, one a comedian of the zaniest sort, and the other capable of expressing the most profound emotional depth. Charpentier's work lay in almost complete obscurity for nearly two centuries when in the late 20 century it began being brought to light, revealing one of the most fertile and inventive musical minds of the Baroque. He has been known almost exclusively for his religious music, and particularly for his gift for expressing the darkest grief.