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Marc Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643 - 1704)
Musiques pour les funérailles de la Reine Marie-Thérèse
In obitum augustissimae nec no piisimae gallorum Reginae Imentum, H 409 (1)
Elevation, H408 (2)
Luctus de morte augustissimae Mariae Theresiae reginae Galliae (3)
Faith – Bernadette Degelin (soprano) (1)
Hope – Diane Verdoodt (soprano) (1)
Charity – Marina Smolders (soprano) (1)
Angel – Howard Crook (tenor) (1)
Messenger – Zeger Vandersteene (tenor) (1)
Three of the People – Ludwig van Gijsegem (tenor), Zeger Vandersteene (tenor), Kurt Widmer (bass) (1)
One of the People – Henk Lauwers (bass), Kurt Widmer (bass) (1)
Hunger – Bernadette Degelin (soprano) (2)
Thirst – Diane Verdoodt (soprano) (2)
Christ – Kurt Widmer (bass) (2)
Howard Crook (tenor) (3)
Zeger Vandersteene (tenor) (3)
Kurt Widmer (bass) (3)
Choeur de Chambre de Namur
Musica Polyphonica/Louis Devos
Recorded in the Institut Musical d’Education Pedagogique, Namur, Belgium, April 1988
WARNER APEX 2564 61743-2 [56.43]


Queen Maria Theresa, wife of Louis XIV of France, died in 1683 having married Louis in 1660. Memorial services were held throughout France from August to September and Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote music for one such occasion, though the exact details of the original performance are unknown. Charpentier held no official court position and the occasions when he wrote music for the court were limited. In 1679 he had written a mass for the Dauphin, but his most constant patron was the Duchesse de Guise.

The first piece, In obitum augustissimae nec no piisime gallorum Reginae Imentum, hovers somewhere between motet and oratorio. Written for 6 or 7 voices with the addition of recorders, flutes, 5 string parts and continuo, it is a dramatisation of the opposition between grief inspired by death and rejoicing at the promise of everlasting life. After a short instrumental prelude, which is well shaped by Musica Polyphonica, the messenger (Zeger Vandersteene) gives notice of his grief at the death of Maria Teresa; Vandersteene is suitable impassioned but his voice sometimes sounds a little uncontrolled. Faith, Hope and Charity (Bernadette Degelin, Diane Verdoodt and Marina Smolders) sing a lovely trio bewailing their grief, this develops into a solo for each of the women. None of them is quite perfectly, but the combine beautifully. The people, represented by the chorus, interject periodically. The Choeur de Chambre de Namur are vigorous and quite stylish in their interjections.

In the second part, the Angel (Howard Crook) exhorts the people to rejoice, informing them that Maria Theresa is not dead but looking forward to life everlasting. Crook makes a lively, rather perky, Angel, providing some lovely, stylish singing. There then develops a dialogue on this theme, between the Angel, Faith, Hope, Charity and the people ending in general praise for King Louis.

The second funeral piece is Luctus de morte augustissimae Marie Theresiae reginae Galliae. This is altogether on a smaller scale, being written for just 3 male voices, two instruments and continuo. It is a finely wrought piece, sombre and sober and profoundly moving. It is an invitation to everyone to lament and bewail themselves on the fate of the Queen. The vocal parts are notable for their use of silence. Charpentier’s extensive and supremely apposite use of the rest only serves to heighten the atmosphere of profound emotion. The piece opens with Howard Crook singing what is billed as a counter-tenor, but which I presume to be haut-contre. Whatever the name of the part, he sings it with superb control. For me, one of the highlights of the whole disc is the trio which follows on from this; I found it remarkably haunting.

Between the two pieces, the ensemble give us one of Charpentier’s motets for the Elevation at the Mass, Famem meam quis replebit? Like the first piece on the disc, it takes the form of a dialogue between Christ, a noble Kurt Widmer, and Hunger and Thirst.

This disc is, perhaps, slightly short measure at 56 minutes but it contains some fine music-making and highlights some of Charpentier’s most profoundly moving music.

Robert Hugill

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