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(c. 1645-1704)
Te Deum (H 146)
Motets Pour Le Roi Louis

Maitrise de Bretagne; Le Parlement de Musique
Directed by Martin Gester.
Opus 111 OPS 30-297 [61:43]

Created by the organist and harpsichordist, Martin Gester, with the goal of researching the interpretation and musical repertoire of the 17th and 18th centuries, Le Parlement de Musique is an ensemble of vocalists and instrumentalists. The Maitrise de Bretagne is a regional choir formed under the initiative of the French Minister of Culture to give students as complete a vocal education as possible.

Charpentier's Te Deum written in the bright key of D major features a four-part choir and eight soloists. It displays the composer's total command of religious music combined with a gift for melodic writing. Brilliant and majestic, yet profound, this Te Deum (Charpentier wrote four Te deums) was probably composed to celebrate the victory at Steinkerque in August 1692 during the wars against the countries of the League of Augsburg. [The struggle would eventually be in vain; and Strasburg, and the Palatine succession lost to France].

Martin Gester's reading shows the work in a rather different light as a perfect example of the "goût français" that influenced baroque Europe. Exhilaration is expressed with grace; and the jubilation is in the dance. This lighter touch results in a performance that touches rather than overwhelms and charms rather than imposes. Grace is paramount rather than weight or over-ornamentation.

The opening Prelude of the Te Deum is famous as the signature tune of Eurovision for the past fifty years. The large choral movements, accompanied by lavish orchestration, are intermingled with solos or small ensembles of soloists (duets, trios, and quartets). Three highlights are: the bass solo for the 'Judex crederis', in which vibrant fanfares for the last judgement intersperse the solo line; the seraphic solo 'Te ergo quaesumus'; and the magnificent fugue that brings the work to a close.

Although Charpentier worked for Versailles throughout his lifetime, his contacts with the royal family were relatively rare and never entirely official Yet, besides the Te Deums, he wrote five works for the feast of St Louis (saint and fourteenth king of that name). The three motets for King Louis on this album are: the psalm, Notus in Judeae H.206, In Honorem Sancti Ludovici H. 418 and H.365. The psalm was probably another victory celebration, for the text mentions war, weapons destroyed by God, the sleep of the enemy dead and the terror of the final judgement. The first In Honorems also contains themes of war and victory while the second is more concerned with anguish and weeping.

Gester's forces communicate very expressively the full range of emotions contained therein and the playing of the instrumentalists is polished and refined, and stirring too.

For early baroque music enthusiasts a firm recommendation

Ian Lace

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