In 1672, Lully purchased a royal privilege (or license) from Pierre Perrin to establish the Académie Royale de Musique, for the performance of French operas in Paris. Soon thereafter he and his associates pursued a dual course of activity, setting up similar institutions in other French cities, and securing a series of royally granted patents and ordinances to prevent other entrepreneurs from doing the same. Lully also made sure that his were the only operas to be given in effect, securing a national monopoly on operatic music.
Beata es Maria is made up primarily of vocal music in praise of the Virgin that features three men's voices, a counter tenor, tenor, and bass. It's an especially attractive ensemble, and Charpentier, who is known to have sometimes sung the tenor parts, knew how to make the vocal lines terrifically appealing. The Magnificat that opens the album beautifully illustrates his skill in taking a much-used convention the chaconne, with a harmonic progression that (the composer reports) repeats 89 times and keeping it endlessly intriguing with his inventive handling of the voices.
Pinchgut Opera, based in Sydney and founded in 2002, specializes in Baroque and Classical opera, featuring works such as Semele, The Fairy Queen, Idomeneo, and Orfeo. One of its more obscure repertoire choices is Marc-Antoine Charpentier's 1688 David & Jonathan. It's a work that's rarely performed or recorded, so this fine performance is revelatory.
French Baroque music has never achieved the general familiarity of its German and Italian cousins, but that's not for any lack of trying on the part of conductor Sébastien Daucé and his Ensemble Correspondances. What you get here is a Pastorale de Noël a fairly short but grand Christmas narrative plus one set of "Antiennes de O," or O Anthems, so called because each one begins with the word "O."
C'est le premier enregistrement mondial d'une très belle pastorale inédite de Charpentier, fruit de la collaboration entre le compositeur et Molière, afin de célébrer le tricentenaire de la mort de Charpentier. Chœurs somptueux, airs et duos magnifiques, des couleurs instrumentales chatoyantes et variées font de cette pastorale un petit joyau.
It is extremely difficult nowadays to reproduce the sound castrato singers where capable of doing at their time and, too often, one finds voices that are too nasal or merely good falsettos. But in many of the performances in this CD one can let the imagination wander and almost imagine you are in the 18th century. In particular, the performance of James Bowmann is outstanding. Also very special the performace of Charpentier 'Salve Regina' by Gerard Lesne and the others; this of course enhanced by the exquisite sensibility of the director Jordi Saval. Also, the duo of Derek Lee Ragin and Ewa Mallas-Godlewska in 'Son qual nave ch'agitata' is so exquisite it brings tears to your eyes. (Carmen E. Alvarez)
With four recordings in six months, this seems to be open season for the Poulenc motets. The newcomers are up against stiff competition, and don't emerge unscathed from comparison either with the college next door (under Marlow on Conifer) or with the choir under the musical director of the one further along the road (Rutter on Collegium/Gamut).
A treasure map is needed to find one’s way through this release. The CDs and DVD, exquisitely encased in a beautiful book – full of facsimiles, photographs and essays as well as vocal texts in innumerable translations – contain performances of some of the most beautifully crafted, deeply spiritual music Charpentier ever wrote. Catherine Cessac, the foremost French authority on Charpentier, writes eloquently on the music and Savall on the impetus for the collection. The repertoire, inspired by the story of the Virgin Mary, is drawn from all periods of Charpentier’s life and reflects the different private and public circumstances of his employment, the musical resources available to him and occasions for which he composed. In several cases more than one performance, each with different personnel, has been included, hence the need for a map.