“Sacrifices” = CHARPENTIER: Peter’s denial of Christ; Abraham’s Sacrifice; CARISSIMI: Jephtha; DE BROSSARD: Symphonies pour le Graduel; Sonate en trio – La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi

Sacrifices = CHARPENTIER: Peter’s denial of Christ, H. 424; Abraham’s Sacrifice, H. 402; CARISSIMI: Jephtha; DE BROSSARD: Symphonies pour le Graduel, SDB. 228 & 229; Sonate en trio – La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU 807588, 67:13 ****:

Sebastien de Brossard (1655-1730) is a little-known composer and theorist who served as the copyist for a number of Charpentier works, hence his inclusion on this disc. He is no major discovery, and even those who lived during his lifetime apparently felt the same way; but it must be said that these short works are engaging and anything but negligible, making fine fare between the meatier cantatas by Charpentier and Carissimi on the anything but lightweight subject matter of sacrifice.

Both of the Charpentier works take this as their theme, even though the idea of Peter’s denial only tangentially finds its way into this thematic package, yet Carissimi’s Jephtha has close parallels to Peter, and the similarity of style is very striking. Charpentier, whose life is quite a mystery in his early years, was known to have travelled to Rome and studied with the older and revered Carissimi, who was himself born only fifteen miles from the Eternal City. Carissimi was a master who was given much adulation during his lifetime, and as it turns out, excellent positions were always being offered. He turned down the opportunity to take over as maestro di cappella replacing Monteverdi at St. Mark in Venice. Charpentier, on the other hand, never attained a court position of any kind, and though he was able to craft a decent career in his varied activities, and produced much church music, he never was accorded the same accolades thrown at composers like Lully (who in fact did everything he could to promote himself over his rivals).

It doesn’t take long for the more affected vocal style of Carissimi to assert itself over the cooler and comparatively restrained utterances of Charpentier; yet it is also interesting that the latter makes his emotional points with greater forces and very “churchly” dissonances that affect the hearer profoundly. Each of these artists brought a lot to the table in their own times, and are deserving of such a wonderful album as this to reinvigorate their contemporary presences. David Bates’s sterling ensemble presents these works with intimacy through the small forces but still manage to muster some real fireworks when called for. HM’s typically superb surround sound covers all the bases in a Baroque release of fine provenance and timely release.

—Steven Ritter

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