Charpentier: Canticum ad beatam Virginem Mariam

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COMPOSERS: Charpentier
LABELS: Auvidis Astrée
WORKS: Canticum ad beatam Virginem Mariam
PERFORMER: Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: ES 9929 Reissue (1989)
Each new issue of his music adds to Charpentier’s status as the pre-eminent musical genius of the first half of the French Baroque. Dedicated to the memory of the fine Charpentier scholar Jean Lionnet, who prepared the performing material, this performance of the Requiem for Louis-Joseph de Guise substantially enhances the recorded literature. The Mass is preluded by organ music by Louis Couperin, sitting somewhat uneasily with the Requiem, and concluded by a suitably dark Fugue by Roberday; in addition there is the Miserere composed in 1685 and revised a few years later. Throughout, the performers reflect the supremely expressive qualities of this music, most touchingly in the exquisite Pie Jesu and Agnus Dei; their seemingly effortless vocal blend and utterly convincing treatment of ornament are even more impressive in the magnificent Miserere, with its more varied range of colour and affect.

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Jordi Savall’s gathering of music by Charpentier for the Blessed Virgin comes up well 11 years on. The singers are certainly alive to the depths of these pieces, notably in the harmonically intense three-voice Salve regina and the touching lyricism of the Stabat mater, though at times some solo lines tend slightly to fragment the ensemble. Jan Smaczny