CHARPENTIER: “a la Chapelle Royale de Versailles” = Canticum ad Beatum Virginem Mariam; Missa Assumpta est Maria; Concert pour les violes/ Nuit – Soloists/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox (2 discs)

CHARPENTIER: “a la Chapelle Royale de Versailles” = Canticum ad Beatum Virginem Mariam; Missa Assumpta est Maria; Concert pour les violes/ Nuit – Montserrat Figueras, Maria Cristina Kiehr, sop./ Gerard Lesne, countertenor/ John Elwes, tenor/ Josep Cabre, bar./ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD (2 discs) + DVD AVDVD 9905, 74:50, 64:06, DVD: 91:47 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This release is a little confusing at first. It does in fact contain, in a newly-minted surround sound version, the first recording of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations (formed by Savall and his wife, the late soprano Montserrat Figueras, back in 1989) of the Canticum ad Beatum Virginem Mariam. The work is actually a canticle, but Savall took the name to include ten other works by Charpentier under its heading, including Salve Regina, Stabat Mater, and Litanies de la Vierge. So the album has a celebratory aspect to it, as well it should. What is startling is not only how well the 1989 sound holds up in its new mastering, but how “finished” is the performance by Savall’s forces—they really were masters of the art at a time when so many other similar ensembles were still struggling with what “historical performance” meant.

The Mass is certainly the greatest Charpentier even penned, one of eleven. You won’t hear a more radiant performance than this live recording from 2004, also repeated in video form on the accompanying excellent DVD (with selections from the Canticle as well). The only really new issue is the Concert pour les violes, recorded in 2013, rounding out another high-class hi-res production from Alia Vox.

This is a fine way to celebrate Charpentier’s 310th anniversary, a pivotal figure in the history of French music.

—Steven Ritter

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