Charpentier: Mors Saülis et Jonathae; Sacrificium Abrahae; Dialogus inter angelum et pastores

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COMPOSERS: Charpentier
LABELS: Naïve Astrée
WORKS: Mors Saülis et Jonathae; Sacrificium Abrahae; Dialogus inter angelum et pastores
PERFORMER: Il Seminario Musicale/Gérard Lesne
Sometimes termed oratorio, sometimes petite histoire sacrée but best of all perhaps, dramatic motet, these miniature Latin dramas, of which Charpentier wrote some 36, are among his most rewarding achievements. Gérard Lesne has chosen two particularly fine examples in Sacrificium Abrahae, and the more overtly dramatic Mors Saülis et Jonathae. The third work, ‘In circumcisione Domini’ is somewhat different, since it is a dialogue between angels and the shepherds of Christ’s Nativity. What these pieces do have in common though, is a distinctive expressive fervour and an intimacy which, above all in the Christmas Dialogue, touches our emotions with beguiling tenderness. Charpentier was gifted with an effective sense of theatre which ensures a well-sustained discourse, but the greater riches are to be found in his harmonic vocabulary, with its affective dissonances and a host of other Italianate features acquired during his early encounter with Carissimi in Rome. Gérard Lesne has served Charpentier’s music very well indeed in several previous issues. But this fine performance by his group Il Seminario Musicale seems to outshine all its predecessors. The vocal contributions are secure, idiomatic and eloquently inflected, while the instrumental playing, right from the brilliant opening fanfare ‘Rumor bellicus’ of Mors Saülis reveals a strength and homogeneity sometimes lacking in the earlier releases. Nicholas Anderson