Charpentier: In nativitatem Domini canticum; Messe de minuit; Noëls sur les instruments (excerpts)

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COMPOSERS: Charpentier
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: In nativitatem Domini canticum; Messe de minuit; Noëls sur les instruments (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Les Arts Florissants Choir & Orchestra/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85820-2
Some of Charpentier’s tenderest utterances are to be found in his various settings of the Christmas story. A strong pastoral element is common to all of them and is perhaps the aspect of Christ’s birth to which Charpentier responds with the greatest fervour. In the beautiful motet In nativitatem Domini canticum, whose text he had already set twice previously, the atmosphere is suffused with wonder and joy, sometimes elated, as in the extended and exhilarating ‘Chorus justorum’ (Chorus of the Just), and sometimes meditative, as in the instrumental ‘Nuit’. The caressing inflections and affecting harmonies by which Charpentier achieves this evocation of nocturnal stillness are pure magic in a work that is wonderfully well sustained throughout. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants have recorded the piece before (Harmonia Mundi) but the new version is more polished and more stylistically assured. The much better-known Messe de minuit, which incorporates, indeed is based upon, traditional French carol melodies, has been recorded on many previous occasions. Christie’s musicians respond warmly to the music in a performance that is intimately expressive and full of seasonal joie de vivre highlighted by the presence of four of Charpentier’s Noëls [carols] sur les instruments interspersed through the main works. A disc to treasure. Nicholas Anderson

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