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[in French] (English text available below.)
Elève de Carissimi à Rome, il revient composer en France et obtient une large audience dans les milieux italianisants. Il compose de nombreuses pièces pour des auteurs dramatiques, notamment Corneille et Molière, qui le prend comme musicien après une brouille avec Lully.
- 1670: Andromède, musique de scène
- 1670: Le Reniement de Saint Pierre, histoire sacrée
- 1673: Le Malade imaginaire, prologue et 3 intermède pour la comédie-ballet de Molière
- 1680: maître de musique de la Duchesse de Guise
- 1680: Les Leçons de ténèbres H. 96 à 110
- 1683: Le Massacre des innocents, histoire sacrée
- 1684: Maître de chapelle à l’Eglise Saint-Louis
- 1688: David et Jonathas
Il continue à composer des divertissements, des airs de cour, des cantates et des pièces instrumentales. Mais c’est à son oeuvre religieuse qu’il doit d’être considéré comme l’un des plus grand maître de la musique française du 17ème siècle. Il compose tout au long de sa vie un nombre très important de Messes, Antiennes, Hymnes et Motets.
- 1692: Te Deum, pour solistes, choeurs et orchestre en ré Majeur H. 146 où Charpentier apparaît comme un précurseur de Händel.
- 1693: Médée
En 1698 et jusqu’à sa mort il devient maître de chapelle à la Sainte-Chapelle
- 1702: Le Jugement de Salomon
Marc-Antoine Charpentier est avant tout un grand novateur.
Novateur dans l’art de la modulation et de la dissonance, il fixe les formes de l’oratorio moderne (Les Histoire sacrées) et introduit la cantate en France (Orphée descendant aux enfers). Il abandonne la monodie pour la polyphonie accompagnée et innove aussi dans l’instrumentation en rompant avec les "familles" de sonorités.
Pédagogue enfin, Charpentier a fixé dans son traité des Règles de la composition l’essentiel de ce qu’un compositeur doit savoir des règles de l’harmonie.
H. Wiley Hitchcock, Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres de M.-A. Charpentier, Paris, 1982
C. Kintzler, Poétique de l’opéra français de Corneille &agarve; Rousseau, Paris, 1991
Voir aussi le Dictionnaires de la musique, Larousse
Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens, Laffont
Dictionnaire de la musique, Honegger, Bordas
(contribution by Remco Huizing <email@example.com>)
Quelques corrections de la part de la "biographe" de Charpentier:
Naissance: 1643: il avait "18 ans ou environ" en Dec. 1661-Jan. 1662, selon l’inventaire après décès de son père.
"Maître de Musique" chez les Jésuites... He wrote for them from the early 1670s until he left them for the Sainte-Chapelle in June 1698. He did not become their full-time composer until circa late 1687.
For a book on Charpentier, see Cathérine Cessac, Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Paris: Fayard, 1988), in French; tr. into English, same title (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1995.
And see http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/PRanum (URL no longer valid [JS]) for: "My Research" which has a detailed listing of all the things I have written about Charpentier since the publication of Cessac’s book.
(contributed by Patricia M. Ranum <PRanum@compuserve.com>)
Te Deum in D major (H.146) and Missa "Assumpta est Maria" (H.11)
St. James’s Singers, St. James’s Baroque Players; Ivor Bolton
A Teldec recording
No works better exemplify the character and style of the music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) than the settings on this recording, both probably dating from his last years, when he was "maître de musique" at La Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
Although frequently performed and recorded, the "Te Deum" in D major (H.146), one of the four extant settings by Charpentier of this text, has never before been available in an edition which rigorously follows the composer’s intentions. However, such an edition, commissioned by Faber Ltd., has now been prepared by the present author, and forms the basis of this recording. This setting, with its "royal" additions of trumpets and timpani, was clearly following a trend established by Lully’s version of 1677 and Lalande’s of 1684 (and must have been closely contemporary with Purcell’s of 1694). Such works were almost always designed to adorn celebrations of royal victories, births marriages and other occasions for thanksgiving. Charpentier’s D major setting is notable not only for its famous opening "rondeau", but also for the use of trumpets and timpani at significant moments in depicting the text. Most impressive are the passages heralding the dramatic utterances of "Judex crederis" by the bass, the whole sequence ending on the subdominant and leading immediately, in a moment of awesome beauty, to the soprano "Te ergo quaesumus", two octaves higher and soon decorated by interweaving flutes. However, the most obvious difference between the festive settings of Charpentier’s contemporaries and his own, is the latter’s brevity, and this concise approach may have influenced Lalande in 1704 to reduce his earlier work to half its previous dimensions.
Charpentier employs a vocal "petit choeur" of eight singers, two each of "dessus" (soprano), "hautecontre" (high tenor), "taille" (tenor) and "basse" (bass), with a "grand choeur" in the same four parts. He also specifies a wide range of instrumental colour in the "obbligati" that adorn most movements for these solo voices, singly or in ensemble: sometimes there is a pair of solo violins, flutes or oboes; at other points pairs of violins and flutes, or flutes and oboes. The full orchestra, on the other hand, is only used to accompany the "grand choeur", and for the purely instrumental passages, designated "simphonie" (a term indicating both the nature of the music and the use of the whole band of wind and strings). In Charpentier’s large-scale works, the orchestra was normally only in four parts. This was not, however, the four-part scoring of the Italians (two violins, viola, cello) but rather the French usage of a single violin line, two viola parts, and a bass line. The violins ("dessus") were usually divided only in solo passages, and in three-part textures; the "tutti" bass ("basse") employed bass violins ("basses de violon"), but not double basses. As Charpentier makes clear in his score, woodwind instruments were added to the outer lines of violins and bass violins (but never to the viola parts) - flutes (for which parts survive for the mass discussed below) and oboes to the "dessus", and bassoons to the "basse".
Few mass settings were composed for the French court under the "ancien régime", since the royal preference in worship was for the solemn low mass where the service was said, while the musicians simultaneously performed "grands motets" (mostly to psalm texts). However, Charpentier worked not at the court, but rather on its fringes and thus had at least the occasional opportunity to set the text of the mass. Eleven of his settings survive, of which the last and most developed is "Assumpta est Maria: Missa sex vocibus cum simphonia." (H.11).
Though the title specifies six voices ("SSHautecontreTBB"), most ensembles call for only three of them at any one time. For example, in the "Credo", from "Et ex Patre natum"", "SSH-C" soli alternate with "H-CTB" soli. Thus, three groups of soloists, drawn from the "petit choeur", sing in alternation not only with each other but also with the "grand choeur". Unlike the "Te Deum", the writing for the "grand choeur" in this mass is almost always in the five-part texture used in the French royal chapel ("SH-CTBarB); this scoring may suggest that this work was destined for a more than usually important celebration of the Feast of the Assumption, perhaps when royalty where present. But there are no instrumental "obbligati" with the vocal "petit choeur" as in the "Te Deum", their accompaniment in this mass (as the extant parts show) being limited to organ, bass violin and bass viol (and probably also a theorbo). On the other hand, the "grand choeur", as in the "Te Deum", is accompanied by wind and four-part strings. Charpentier’s "Assumpta est Maria" mass is a fascinating amalgam of Italianate expressive devices (such as the augmented 5th/7th/9th chord and other dissonances he learned from Carissimi, for example, in the "Crucifixus") and busy semiquaver writing (the end of the "Gloria"), alongside refined French melodies calling out for the application of ornamentation, rhythmic alteration and inequality, as in the "Christe eleison", and "Gratias agimus" in the "Gloria". In three places, the structure of this setting of the mass reflects the tradition of the French organ mass, where plainsong and organ proceed in "alternatim", with the result that only some of the text of the mass is sung, the rest being represented by organ music. Charpentier employs variants of this "alternatim" practice here, in the "Kyrie eleison", the "Sanctus/Benedictus" sequence and the "Agnus Dei". The expressive opening "simphonie" (based on the plainsong in use in Paris at this time for "Assumpta est Maria") represents the first petition of the "Kyrie", while the second and third are sung (each of the latter begins with a vocal trio followed by a "tutti" section, also making use of the plainsong). Then follows the injunction, "l’orgue joue icy un couplet" (here the organ plays a verse); in this recording , the organist improvises, as he would have done in Charpentier’s day, using the same chant as a basis, and, in a similar way to the "simphonie" before the "Kyrie", this instrumental verse appears to fulfil the function of the first petition of the "Christe eleison", with the sung portion (for three solo voices) falling into two clear sections. The traditional ninepart structure is finally rounded off by repeating both the "simphonie" and the sung "Kyrie" as before. In the "Sanctus/Benedictus" sequence, the ternary structure is representes by a "simphonie" before the sung text, and afterwards by another organ extemporisation replacing the "Benedictus" ("Benedictus pour l’Orgue"). In this recording, the organist plays the "Fugue & Caprice IX", by Francois Roberday (1624-80) with which Charpentier’s organists would undoubtedly have been very familiar. The final nod in the direction of the organ mass, and perhaps the strangest to modern ears, is in the "Agnus Dei", where the substitution of the sung text of both the first and the third petitions with the "Simphonie de devant l’Agnus Dei" means that the concluding text, "dona nobis pacem" (give us thy peace) is never heard (as also in Charpentier’s "Messe de Minuit"). But if the actual text is missing, there is an undeniable mood of calm and peace, reminiscent of some of Carissimi’s conclusions, in the closing bars of this "simphonie" in F major, curiously at odds with Charpentier’s own definition of this key in his "Règles de Composition", as "furieux et emporté" (furious and volatile)!
It is in the larger movements, "Gloria" and "Credo", where the dramatic contrasts of the text demand it, that the alternation between "petit choeur" and "grand choeur" is most impressively exploited. The "Gloria" is mostly for the "grand choeur à 5", although twice the "dessus" (sopranos) divide to give six parts in all. One of the two interventions of the "petit choeur" is "Domine Deus", the three persons of the Trinity being represented successively by "basse-taille", "taille" and "haute-contre". The "Credo" has much more music for the "petit choeur", with the full ensemble used only four times: at the opening, for "Qui propter" as far as "Crucifixus", for "Et in Spiritum Sanctum", and for the concluding "Et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen".
The possible royal connections with this mass are underlined by the addition in Charpentier’s manuscript score of the "Domine, salvum fac regem" (O Lord, save the king), traditionally sung at the end of the king’s mass, and bringing the whole work to a noble conclusion.
© 1996 Lionel Sawkins
(contributed by Robert Priewasser <firstname.lastname@example.org>)