Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Charpentier - Requiem-Messe des morts - Le Concert Spirituel, Niquet

Charpentier - Requiem-Messe des morts - Le Concert Spirituel, Niquet
Sacred | single tracks, Ape | no log, scans | 1 CD, 265 MB
May 1, 1995 | Naxos | FF

Herve Niquet and his ensemble, Le Concert Spirituel, have already established themselves as expressive interpreters of French sacred music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this Naxos release they apply their skills to the composer we might justifiably regard in this context as the most expressive of them all — Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
Charpentier wrote 11 Masses which vary considerably in dimension and range widely in the style of their settings. Niquet has chosen one of the most intimate of them, the Messe des morts a quatre voix (117), only once previously recorded, by Louis Devos (Erato — nla). The four voices refer to the number or vocal parts rather than to the required number of singers and the setting is in fact for a four-part choir with pairs of soprano, alto, tenor and bass soloists, and continuo. It is among the least grand of Charpentier's Masses, establishing a mood of elegy and tender contemplation at the outset and sustaining it through to the sublime "De profundis" and "Requiem aeternam" with which the piece concludes, The fluent and frequently bold character of Charpentier's counterpoint is always a source of the greatest pleasure to me. My ears revel in its idiosyncrasies just as my senses are heightened, sometimes almost unbearably, by his use of chromaticism, suspensions and passing notes. The voices of Le Concert Spirituel, though not, as I have previously noted, particularly refined either tonally or in ensemble, respond fervently to these and other aspects of the music, ensuring a performance which is emotionally satisfying and musically enjoyable.
The remaining pieces are all interesting, too, only the psalms Nisi Dominus (1-1160) and Conf. irebor tibi (H220), I think, having been previously recorded. The Litanies de la Vierge (1-189) are not those recorded by William Christie and Les Arts Florissants (Harmonia Mundi, 9/89) but more modest in scale and with continuo only. For the Nisi Dominus Niquet has sensibly added the short instrumental prelude for two violins and continuo which probably belongs to it but which is preserved in another source. This is a vibrant piece which makes instant appeal. Perhaps the most arresting of these shorter items, however, is a heart-rendingly beautiful Elevation (1-1251) for five-strand vocal texture with continuo. This piece, in three sections, is by far the longest and the most striking of Charpentier's several Elevations. Niquet's voices realize the intensity of Charpentier's writing though here the upper voices occasionally sound strained. In short, though, this is an attractive release, well recorded and containing full texts.--Gramophone

CD Content
Charpentier Messe des morts, H7.
Litanies de la Vierge, H89.
Psalms — Nisi Dominus, H160;
Laudate pueri, H203;
Confitebor tibi, H220.
Elevation a 5 sans dessus de violon, "Transfige dulcissime Jesu", H25 I.

Le Concert Spirituel / Nerve Niquet.

Naxos CD CD 8 553173 (61 minutes: DDD).

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