LABELS: Opus 111
WORKS: Te Deum, H146; Psalm 75, H206
PERFORMER: Salomé Haller, Brigitte Chevigné (soprano), François-Nicolas Geslot (countertenor), Stephan van Dyck (tenor), Arnaud Marzorati (bass); Maîtrise de Bretagne, Le Parlement de Musique/Martin Gester
CATALOGUE NO: OPS 30-297
The rondo prelude to Charpentier’s D major Te Deum, courtesy of its adoption by Eurovision as its signature theme, must be the single most famous work of the French Baroque and the remainder matches it as one of the most varied and satisfying of Charpentier’s works for orchestra, choir and soloists. Indicative of so much that remains obscure about this greatest composer of the early French Baroque is that the occasion for which the Te Deum was composed remains unknown, though Catherine Cessac speculates plausibly that it might have been written to celebrate the notable French victory at Steinkerque in 1692.
Martin Gester’s performance is uniformly excellent. The Rondo Prelude has a relaxed, almost jazzy quality, a long way from the breathless, hectoring nature of Mark Minkowski’s performance. I could have done with slightly more sustained choral tone, but in general this genuine ensemble performance certainly equals William Christie’s benchmark recording. Gester’s performers perhaps offer less panache, but they make up for it in care and sincerity. The other items – two motets celebrating St Louis and a psalm setting – confirm that wherever one looks in Charpentier’s output, no disappointments await. The first St Louis motet is upbeat and lyrical, much in the manner of the Te Deum, while the smaller-scale second goes from sombre meditation to a joyous close. The real gem, however, is the psalm ‘Notus in Judea Deus’ with its exquisitely expressive still centre and the magnificent vividness of the word-setting in its second half – unmissable. Jan Smaczny