CHARPENTIER: Te Deum; Grand Office des Morts – Les Arts Florissants/ Soloists / Wm. Christie, cond. – Virgin Classics

by | Aug 2, 2006 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum; Grand Office des Morts – Les Arts Florissants/ Olga Pitarch, Orlanda Velez Isidro – dessus (sopranos)/ Paul Agnew, Jeffrey Thompson – haute-contre (high tenors)/ Topi Lehitpuu, Marc Mauillon- taille (tenors) / Bertrand Bontoux, Joao Fernandes- (basses)/ William Christie, conductor – Virgin Classics 7 2435457332, 79:22 ****:
This is a glorious recording of colorful and varied music. From the opening notes, the listener is in for a treat. Christie opens the Te Deum, his second recording of the work, with a drum march (attributed to Philidor rather than Charpentier) that sets the stage for the grandeur to follow. Initially celebratory with fanfares for trumpets and drums, the music alternates between solos, duets and full chorus accompanied by strings, organ and woodwinds.   Poignant da capo arias and lively and buoyant ensemble writing is abundant.  The music resounds in the spirit of Monteverdi and the Italians of the period including Carassimi, Charpentier’s teacher.  

The mood changes dramatically in the second work, the Grand Office des Morts. The opening Kyrie is reminiscent of the Bach B Minor Mass, and Christie brings out the ethereal beauty of this gentle, otherworldly music. By contrast, the Dies Irie that follows is appropriately foreboding and weighty. Over and again, Christie shows his affinity for the music.  Highlights abound, including the heavenly Symphonie après Christe to the Liber Scriptus for tenor, bass, organ, flute and accompaniment, and the Pie Jesu for bass and counter-tenor.  The playing and singing are both sensitive and impassioned, and the musicianship is stylish and above reproach; unfortunately, specific soloists and singers aren’t identified in each piece. Regardless, the recording underscores Christie’s identification and association with Charpentier’s music over the past quarter century and is a must for lovers of the French baroque and of choral music in general.  Sonics are first rate with tremendous width and depth.  The hall acoustic is airy and somewhat reverberant, no surprise given this is a live recording made in a Parisian church.  Soloists seem to float in space, and the sections of the chorus are layered perfectly from front to back. 

— Harry Zweben