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CHARPENTIER: Motets / Litanies a la Vierge

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Sacred Music Vol. 4 -Motets; Litanies ?á la Vierge

In the seventeenth century, devotion to the Virgin Mary, pleader ofman's cause with God the Father and God the Son, was fired by theCounter-Reformation. The numerous prayers to Mary set by Marc-AntoineCharpentier perfectly reflect this Marian fervour. Many motets are based onliturgical texts; others resort to neo-Latin verses of independent inspiration,whose authors are often difficult to identify. Likewise, the use of motets forthe Virgin is very varied: regular annual feasts (the Nativity, Purification,Annunciation, Visitation, Assumption...) or more frequent occasions such as theservice of Vespers (in which the Magnificat and antiphons have theirplace) or Compline (Litanies).Or again, as Marc-Antoine Charpentier himselfwrites in the title of one of his motets, for all the feasts of the BlessedVirgin (Pro omnibus festis B.V.M.). As far as the music is concerned, itis probably in these diverse pieces dedicated to the Virgin that what might becalled Charpentier's peculiar vocal style is most successfully employed.

The Antiennes ?á la Vierge cycle H. 44-47 covers the liturgicalyear. Although the four pieces follow each other in Charpentier's manuscript,they could not be sung in succession, since each of them corresponds with adifferent period, precisely indicated by the composer at the head of his works:the Alma Redemptoris 'until Compline on the Day of Purificationinclusively', the Ave Regina caelorum 'from Vespers the day afterPurification until the first Saturday after Whitsun' and finally, the SalveRegina 'from Vespers on the eve of Trinity Sunday until Nones on theSaturday before the first Sunday of Advent'. By re-copying his antiphons,Charpentier had established a corpus on which he could draw at any time,particularly when he was, until the 1690s, Ma?«tre de Chapelle at the Jesuitchurch of Saint-Louis, where sung Vespers seem to have been quite frequent. Thefour antiphons are written for similar groupings (soloists and four-part choir,accompanied by two violins and basso continuo) and present a certain identityof style. The motet for the Virgin Onmi die dic Maria, H. 30, a shortpiece to the glory of Mary, makes use of soloists and choir.

Among the nine versions of the Litanies de la Vierge thatCharpentier has left us, the one included (H. 83) appears to among the mostperfect in aesthetic and spiritual terms. One's soul cannot help but be moved,carried away on a thread of exceptional counterpoint, culminating in theradiant yet ineffably gentle repetition of the ora pro nobis.

The Magnificat, H. 76 takes it, intonation from the fifthliturgical tone. Its verses are mostly linked one to the next, each beingcharacterized, nonetheless by a different vocal formation: solo, dno, trio orchoir.

Pro omnibus festis B.V.M. is in the form of a dialogue between men (deepvoices) and angels (higher voices), the former putting the questions to whichthe latter respond, the idea being to praise, with extraordinary fluency, theVirgin's infinite virtues. In the second part of the motet, the two groups jointogether to worship the perfect personage of Mary, before inviting Earth and Heaven together tointone songs of praise.

The text of the Pri?¿re ?á la vierge du P?¿re Bernard H. 367, isdedicated to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The motet culminates musically withparticularly sumptuous writing.

Just like the Litanies ?á la Vierge and the Pro omnibus testisB.V.M., the Chant joyeux du temps de P?óques O fili et filiae H. 339,was composed for the musical ensemble of Mademoiselle de Guise, for whomCharpentier was writing from 1670 to 1688. He also sang with them as acounter-tenor. Here, the composer had at his disposal a five or six part vocalformation favouring the high voices, which is particularly apt for the festiveaspect of this Chant joyeux. Though associated with this text, at thesame time he adds ornamentation and variation with consummate skill. The last Alleluia,with its 38 bars of singing exercises, which stream forth from all theparts without a break, demonstrating all the writer's true prowess, bearswitness to the interior joy which drives the composer and which he shares withus with exaltation and generosity.

Catherine Cessac

Translation: Wil Gowans

Quatre antiennes ?á la vierge

Item number 8554453
Barcode 636943445327
Release date 01/01/2000
Category Baroque
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Charpentier, Marc-Antoine
Charpentier, Marc-Antoine
Conductors Niquet, Herve
Niquet, Herve
Orchestras Concert Spirituel, Le
Concert Spirituel, Le
Disc: 1
Chant joyeux du temps de Paques, H. 339
1 Alma Redemptoris, H. 44
2 Ave Regina caelorum, H. 45
3 Regina caeli, H. 46
4 Salve Regina, H. 47
5 Priere a la Vierge du Pere Bernard, H. 367
6 Litanies a la Vierge, H. 83
7 Magnificat, H. 76
8 Pro omnibus festis B.V.M, H. 333
9 Petit motet pour la Vierge, H. 30
10 Chant joyeux du temps de Paques, H. 339
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