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Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers
, H488 (The Descent of Orpheus to the Underworld) (1686/7?) [54:38]
Orphée - Robert Getchell (haute-contre)
Eurydice – Caroline Weynants (soprano)           
Daphné – Violaine le Chenadec (soprano)
Œnone - Caroline Dangin-Bardot (soprano)
Aréthuse / Proserpine  - Caroline Arnaud (soprano) Lucile Richardot (mezzo)
Ixion – Stephen Collardelle (haute-contre)
Tantale - Davy Cornillot (tenor)
Apollon / Titye – Étienne Bazola (baritone)
Pluton  - Nicolas Brooymans (bass)
Ensemble Correspondances [Béatrice Linon, Josèphe Cottet (violins); Lucile Perret, Matthieu Bertaud (flutes); Mathilde Vialle, Lucile Boulanger, Myriam Rignol (viols); Antoine Touche (bass viol); Thibaut Roussel, Diego Salamanca (theorbos); Arnaud de Pasquale (harpsichord)]/Sébastien Daucé (organ)
rec. Grenoble MC2, January 2016. DDD
Texts and translations included.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902279 [54:38]

Reviewed as 24/44.1 download with pdf booklet from eclassical.com.

There already existed two recordings of this delectable short chamber-scale opera, the last which Charpentier composed:

– Les Arts Florissants/William Christie – Erato 0630119132 (mid-price, or budget-price download) or Warner 2564617852 (4 CDs for around £16, with Divertissements, Les Plaisirs de Versailles, In nativitatem Domini) or download only with the contents of the 4-CD set plus music by Couperin, Monteverdi, Mozart, Purcell, Rameau, etc., 7½ hours around £17.

– Boston Early Music Festival Chorus and Orchestra/Paul O’Dette, Stephen Stubbs – CPO 7778762 (full-price, with La Couronne des Fleurs). Recording of the Month – review DL News 2014/10 .

Both these have a great deal to recommend them: the Christie can be obtained very inexpensively, especially as a download or in the 4-CD pack with some other fine music, while the Boston version comes with a substantial 26-minute filler, the only current recording of La Couronne des Fleurs.  Both are well played and recorded and choice between them can safely be left to price and coupling.

Now along comes another recording, also very well performed and available from eclassical.com in 24-bit sound for only a little more than 16-bit.  ($14.75 and $12.29 respectively).  It’s only at 44.1 kHz but it sounds excellent).

Ensemble Correspondances and Sébastien Daucé already have serial form – very good form – in recording Charpentier and his contemporaries.  In December 2016 Harmonia Mundi released a recording of his Pastorale de Noël and other Christmas music, which elicited high praise from Johan van Veen – review – and Simon Thompson was equally lyrical in reviewing their 2-CD set of the music associated with Louis XIV in his role as Sun King, as was I in recommending their recording of De Lalande’s Tenebræ in DL News 2015/3.  Earlier still they achieved another Recording of the Month rating from Johan van Veen for Charpentier’s Litanies de la Viergereview – a performance which I rated as sumptuous – DL News 2013/13.

Charpentier himself seems to have sung the title role in the first performance, probably before the Dauphin, but I can hardly imagine that he would have found fault with Robert Getchell in that role here or, indeed, with any of the singers.  It’s not a major point, but it’s good to have a genuine haute-contre rather than a high tenor as Orpheus and in the part of Ixion.

The new recording comes with a very adequate set of notes, libretto and translation, but that which accompanies the CPO – also available with the download – is stunning in its detail.

In my review of the Litanies recording I mentioned the CD cover as my only excuse for nit-picking.  Compare the CPO and Erato covers with the drab equivalent for new release and you may well react similarly.

Lovers of French baroque music are well served by these three recordings: the only problem is making a choice.  We now have three very fine recordings of this attractive music, so you won’t go wrong with any of them, least of all with the new Harmonia Mundi.  If you have not yet made the acquaintance of Sebastien Daucé and his team, this or any of the other albums which I’ve mentioned awaits you.

Brian Wilson



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