Charpentier: Motets

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Charpentier
LABELS: Erato Musifrance
WORKS: Motets
PERFORMER: Barbara Schlick, Nancy Zijlstra, Kai Wessel, Dominique Visse, Christoph Prégardien, Harry van Berne, Peter Kooy, Klaus Mertens; Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra/Ton Koopman
CATALOGUE NO: 2292 45822-2 DDD
Virtually every new issue of works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier confirms his position as one of the foremost musical figures of the late 17th century. Inexhaustible melodic invention, dramatic flair and an extraordinary imagination place him far above his vengeful and frequently obstructive contemporary, Jean-Baptiste Lully. This double CD set of motets for two choirs introduces newcomers to the catalogue and runs the gamut from dramatic oratorio to the soulful contemplation of the Leçons de Ténèbres. If the latter are not among Charpentier’s most harmonically adventurous, they never disappoint.

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There are problems with the performance: the soloists are not equally matched and the haut-contres, even in lightly-scored passages, can disappear. Tuning grates a little in some of the concerted passages and some will find Ton Koopman’s harpsichord continuo and approach to ornamentation invasive. But none of this detracts from the glory of the music. Wherever the laser falls on these CDs, there are things at which we may marvel. Jan Smaczny