An Italian Travel Diary
M-A Charpentier: Mass for Four Choirs, etc; plus works by Benevoli, Beretta, Cavalli, Cazzati, Giamberti and Merula
Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastian Daucé
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902640 74:45 mins
‘Go to Italy; that is the true source’ – so Charpentier advised following his own journey from Paris to Rome in the 1660s. This ‘travel diary’ brings together the sort of music he may have encountered en route and provides a narrative thread for a selection of ravishing, often revelatory, works.
Highlights include Maurizio Cazzati’s sumptuous eight-voice motet Salve caput sacrosanctum; Cavalli’s 12-part Sonata in D minor, showcasing the ensemble’s crack instrumentalists, and Merula’s quasi-operatic psalm-setting Credidi propter quod. The disc’s centrepiece is Cavalli’s Magnificat of 1656 – a vivid, dramatic, daringly sensual response to the canticle text. Director Sébastien Daucé throws into high relief its textural and expressive contrasts – magnificent and intimate by turns; ‘Deposuit potentes’, uttered with hushed reverence, is particularly beautiful.
Charpentier lingered for some years in Rome, and the city’s extravagant polychoral tradition clearly left its mark. He was later inspired to prepare a manuscript of Francesco Beretta’s 16-part Missa Mirabiles elationes maris, to which his own, lush 16-part Mass clearly responds. The Roman composer weaves a shroud of sound, threaded with yearning dissonances, creating a profoundly poignant work. Here, and throughout the disc, Daucé gives expressive shape to the music’s ebb and flow; tempos are beautifully judged, responding to the texts and their sacred context. The ensemble’s luminous vocal sound and instrumental colours add to the lush sonic canvas.
In short, this is an inspiring programme which highlights the reasons why Italy had such an overwhelming impact on the impressionable young Parisian.