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Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Messe à 4 chœurs et 4 orchestres, H4 [35:58]
Jacques BOYVIN (1646-1707)
Fond d’orgue-1er Ton, 1er Livre [1:28]
Fugue Grave-1er Ton, 1er Livre [1:43]
Récit Tendre- 1er Ton, 2e Livre [2:12]
Prélude à deux Chœurs [2:58]
Concert de Flûtes- 3e Ton, 2e Livre [3:03]                        
Prélude-Grand Plein Jeu, 5e Ton, 2e Livre [2:43]
Récit- 5e Ton, 2e Livre [1:56]
Voix Humaine- 5e Ton, 1er Livre [1:49]
Dialogue- 5e Ton, 1er Livre [2:46]
Grande Dialogue à quatre chœurs- 5e Ton, 2e Livre [6:13]
Agnès Mellon; Isabelle Poulenard (sopranos); Charles Brett; Alain Aubin (counter-tenors); John Elwes; Michel Laplenie (tenors); Philippe Cantor; Jean-François Gardell (baritones)
Chœur Régional Nord-Pas-de-Calais/Jean Bacquet; Ensemble Jean Bridier; Ensemble Vocal Françoise Ηerr; Chœur Gabrieli/Claude Petillot; La Grande Écurie et la Chambre du Roy/Jean-Claude Malgloire; Odile Bailleux (organ)
Organ of Abbaye de Saint-Michel en Thiérache, Aisne, France (Boizard, 1714, restored by T. Haerpfer, 1983)
rec. Abbaye de Saint-Michel en Thiérache, France, June 1990
WARNER APEX 2564 61745-2 [62:53]

Having spent a period of study in Rome with the famous Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi, Charpentier was influenced by the Italian polyphonic choral style. This style was in contrast with the French practice of that time, the stile moderno, the 17th-century modern solo style. As such, the Messe à 4 chœurs et 4 orchestres could only stand as an exception to the rule due to its massiveness of counterpoint lines. A contemporary of Lalande and Lully, Charpentier never enjoyed royal patronage. Still his compositions captured the grandeur of French court music and have a distinctive, yet personal style. The king’s son, the Dauphin, granted him a pension in 1683 in recognition to his services to music.
The Messe à 4 chœurs et 4 orchestres employs a wealth of musicians and also the organ at six points in the liturgy. This follows the traditional practice of the period. In the large movements of Gloria and Credo the alternation between ‘petit choeur’ - few voices - and ‘grand choeur’ – full - is impressively exploited. Beautiful dialogue between voices and choirs, intriguing dissonances, refined melodies, rhythmic vitality and rhythmic dance-like patterns, are some of the elements deployed in this fascinating work.
Boyvin’s two Livres d’orgues were published in 1689 and 1700. They had eight suites each, covering eight church modes and ‘contained a table of ornaments, a list of registrations to facilitate “good understanding of how to combine the stops” and a Traité abrégé de l’accompagnement.’  The decision by the organist Odile Bailleux to insert into the Messe, pieces by Boyvin and even four more than the ones Charpentier originally requested, seems to create the opposite result than the one the organist intended. Too many organ pieces in between Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei, seem unnecessary with the excuse of ‘punctuation - a breathing space’. The reason is that Charpentier had already inserted a lot of “punctuation - a breathing space”s. These can be found at points where there is alteration of petit choeur and grand choeur and also where the rhythmic patterns and motifs change character and mood. Indisputably Charpentier knew how to create a poetic climate and sustain it. This music does not need any help!
The booklet offers only basic information - in three languages - about the composers and the music being performed. It has some misprints e.g. Boyvin’s exact dates. The organ’s stop-list is missing which is a significant omission for any historic instrument being recorded. Another omission is that there are no biographical notes about the performers and the ensembles.
The vocal/ensemble performances are not of the highest standard. The blend of the vocal line is good even though much more care should have been given to the balance between choirs and voices. The phrasing and breathing seem to have problems and these cause some words to be pronounced with extra consonants, e.g. ‘essst’ between different voices. On then other hand ensemble is good with all voices finishing together. The large choral forces sound uninspired and emotion seems in short supply despite the highly emotional text. The organ performances follow the same route. They sound quite rushed - especially tracks 7-16 - with all the fast passages played … just fast instead of rhetorically. The ornaments do not engage as they are predictable instead of catching the attention. The last vocal piece is followed after some seconds pause by canned applause! A rotten cherry in the pie!

Christina Antoniadou



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