Motets pour une Princesse
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Pour un Reposoir, H523 [2.01]
Ave Verum Corpus, H329 [7.08]
Domine Dominus Noster, H163 [10.12]
Gaude Beatae Virginis Mariae, H330 [6.58]
Quam Dilecta, H186 [11.19]
De Profundis, H232 [8.24]
Usquequo Domine, H196 [7.55]
Jacques BOYVIN (c.1649-1706)
Suite du Quatriesme ton, Premier livre d'orgue (1689)
Grand Prélude à 5 Parties, à 2 Chœurs [2.49]
Trio [0.57]
Cornet ou Tierce [1.24]
Dialogue de Récits, et de Trois [2.04]
Duo [0.58]
Tierce en taille [2.39]
Dialogue en Fugue [1.56]
Ensemble Marguerite Louise/Gaétan Jarry (direction, organs)
rec. October 2014, Eglise Notre-Dame de l'Assomption de Champcueil, Essonne, Paris
L’ENCELADE ECL1403 [67.00]

This release of works from French baroque composers Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jacques Boyvin features the Ensemble Marguerite Louise. Founded in 2007 the ensemble takes its name from Marguerite Louise Couperin (1676-1728), a first cousin of François Couperin, one of the foremost female musicians of her day. Directed by Gaétan Jarry, at the grand organ at Champcueil, Marguerite Louise comprises five singers and a consort of nine instrumentalists.

Charpentier was a prolific writer in a number of genres. In the booklet his work-list is reputed to run to 550 compositions with sacred choral music dominant. He wrote around 35 Latin oratorios. When Charpentier returned to Paris from a period of study in Rome he was engaged as a courtier to Marie de Lorraine, Princess of Joinville, the Duchesse of Joyeuse and Guise, a renowned patron of the arts. Charpentier remained in the service of Mademoiselle de Guise for some eighteen years until her death in 1688. Jean-François Frémont explains in the booklet notes that during this time Charpentier “focused his attention to perfecting the petite motet” of which six motets appear on this CD. Four of the works are Psalm settings, one an Ave verum corpus a prayer to the Blessed Sacrament with a separate organ Prelude and a Gaudia Beate Virginis Mariae, an Ode to the Virgin Mary. Not only did Charpentier compose the actual scores he would commonly sing the haute-contre part himself.

Under the direction of Gaétan Jarry, Marguerite Louise seems well prepared, demonstrating musicality maturity and technical assurance. In the motets the singers pay unerring attention to the sacred texts giving satisfying performances that feel intensely reverential. Its vocal sonority and unity blend to make a striking sound. Individual vocal character has not been sacrificed in an attempt to achieve pinpoint precision. It feels unfair to single out individual voices however, soprano Cécile Achille excels in her natural gravity and creamy tonal beauty.

For those wanting to hear more high quality sacred choral music from Charpentier I can recommend Musique Sacrée, a quite stunning recording of three substantial sacred works performed by the Choir of New College Oxford with Oxford Baroque directed by Edward Higginbottom on Novum (review).

Little is known about Jacques Boyvin who was organist at Rouen Cathedral from 1674 until his death in 1706. He wrote two books of organ works, the first in 1689 and another in 1700. Together they contain a total of 120 works. In this programme Charpentier’s sacred choral works are interspersed with seven of Boyvin’s short organ pieces. Gaétan Jarry reveals Boyvin’s works as engaging and interesting enough to encourage me to want to hear more.

I must highlight the comprehensive booklet notes penned by Jean-François Frémont. Gratifyingly they come complete with full Latin texts and English translations. The conspicuous cover art involves a woman model on a horse. It could easily have been an advertisement for Jilly Cooper's best-selling books Polo or Riders. The sound is good, clear and skilfully balanced.

This beautifully performed, recorded and presented L’Encelade release makes a splendid addition to the ever-growing discography of Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Michael Cookson

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