CHARPENTIER: Mass for Eight Voices and Flutes, H. 3; Te Deum for Eight Voices with Flutes and Violins, H. 145 – Le Concert Spirituel/ Herve Niquet, conductor – Glossa

by | May 3, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

CHARPENTIER: Mass for Eight Voices and Flutes, H. 3; Te Deum for Eight Voices with Flutes and Violins, H. 145 – Le Concert Spirituel/ Herve Niquet, conductor – Glossa Multichannel SACD GCDSA 921611, 79:53 **** [Distr. by Qualiton]:

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 – 1704) was a French composer who lived during the Baroque era and produced many works in the guise of masses, oratorios and operas, to name just a few. During this time period the court of Louis XIV had made a decisive turn away from the traditional liturgy as promulgated by Rome, and moved towards a more modern, simpler style based in the Gallican canons. As a result, the opportunities for elaborate musical setting were greatly reduced, as the ordinary days were sufficed by the low mass, and the more splendid celebrations confined to “special days”. But in some places, like the Jesuit-run church of Saint-Louis, the older liturgy was still in force, and people would flock to hear the magnificent music that had become the norm thanks to the Italian-styled Jesuits.

So in essence, when a celebration in one of these churches was offered, it could be quite spectacular indeed. Charpentier was one of the mainstays of these occasions, and his twelve masses testify to the fecundity he found while in Paris and working for these large churchly choral foundations. The size and scope of the mass under consideration proves it to be one that was intended for a large celebration, as only the Mass, H. 4 for four choirs really competes with it in scope. The composer tinkered with its performance options for some time, and was not averse to returning to work years afterwards in order to prep it for a revival. One can easily see the attraction of the liturgical musically-starved French populace for this piece—it has a large and varied choral impact, with lots of marvelous effects and stirring moments.

As does the Te Deum, for my money even more musically effective than the Mass. For although the masses he wrote satisfied the desire for noble, inspiring liturgical actions, the Te Deums were by nature composed for more popular, upbeat circumstances, and as such seem more deliberately attuned to the popular sentiment. Here Charpentier gives us a peppery and explosively charged choral experience that makes full use of the double choir setup and it permutations. Mind you, even though this is based on what would be an Italian style, at least formally and perhaps from a bombastic perspective, yet it still has a sense of Gallican propriety and reserve. That said, if you like the composer, you will surely like this. And please, for those not reading the heading carefully, this is not the more popular and oft-recorded Te Deum, H. 146, but H. 145.

Le Concert Spirituel and it distinguished conductor Herve Niquet give us a fine period performance in a most resonant church acoustic. The clarity is truly fine, and Glossa’s 5.0 surround sound flooded my listening room with the choral sound circulating overhead in a delicious manner. Only lighting up some incense would have made the churchly experience complete. Highly recommended.

— Steven Ritter

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