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Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (c.1643-1704)
Judicium Salomonis, H.422 (1702) [40:00]
Motet pour une longue offrande, H.434 (1698-99) [22:47]
Ann Quintans (soprano); Maud Gnidzaz (soprano); Marc Molomot (tenor), Leif Aruhn-Solén (tenor); Paul Agnew (tenor); Carl Ghazarossian (tenor); Marc Mauillon (baritone); Neal Davies (bass); João Fernandes (bass);
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
rec. 5-7 September, 2005, Théâtre de Poissy, France. DDD
VIRGIN CLASSICS 0946 359294 23 [63:00]

These grand motets are both late works, written between 1688 and 1699 and 1702. The earlier of the two, Motet pour une Longue Offrande H434, was written for an annual meeting of the Parlement and embodied the savoury moral that judgement rests with God. The characteristic Charpentier traits of almost visual-theatrical drama are here, though perhaps to a lesser degree than before. Fortunately Neal Davis is the quintessence of sonorousness in his role, singing Paravit Dominus in judicio with sweep and clarity. The choir also sings with considerable vivacity and engagement though it’s noticeable that individual strands do obtrude from time to time. It’s certainly not the neatest or most tightly drilled performance on disc from them.
Compensation comes from the eloquent winds of Les Arts Florissants, always one of this band’s strongest features, and from the solo singing. Davis we’ve already mentioned but  the duet between Ana Quintans and Maud Gnidzaz is also worthy of note and admiration for its pliancy and plangency. Note too the characteristically high tenor – a somewhat loose translation into English – in the Trio finale.
Juducium Salomonis is the bigger work and the ostensible disc favourite – see the booklet cover which features a detail from a painting by Guido Reni, though it happens to be his c1606/07 Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria. Here the band scores by virtue of its powerful accents and rhythmic charge in Part One and in the sheer expressive warmth of the opening simphonie of Part Two.  Paul Agnew, a regular in this kind of French repertoire no less than in, say, Dowland proves eloquence itself in his recitatives and pronouncements. Note in particular how malleable, how potently gentle, and how supple he is in the First Part’s recitative Benedictus es Domine Deus Israel. And the special intimacy of Et facto mane is conveyed with real conviction. Still, there again, the chorus rather lets things down in Et facto – though I should add that this is only a marginal matter and won’t necessarily spoil ones enjoyment of these otherwise warmly sung and played motets.
The recording is a touch on the chilly side. The Latin texts are translated into French, English and German. 
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Glyn Pursglove 


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