Sébastien Daucé / Ensemble Correspondances

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Histoires Sacrées

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The "Histoires Sacrées" of Marc-Antoine Charpentier are sometimes called little sacred operas, but they are really more like oratorios: they contain numbers sung by characters, but they have a great deal of narration, and they are in Latin. Sample here the scene in Judith, sive Bethulia liberata, H. 391, where Judith slices off the head of Holofernes: the emotional mood is just slightly heightened. These works have not often been recorded and take a bit of effort to absorb; one has to familiarize oneself with the Latin texts and with the mood of the whole, which is didactic rather than dramatic. The program here is strong, with three female biblical heroines exemplifying strength and virtue, and this helps you get into the expressive modes of the music. The "Histoires Sacrées" have not been recorded often. Until now the field has been ruled by a 2001 release from Gérard Lesne and his Baroque ensemble Il Seminario Musicale, and this release by the durable French group Ensemble Correspondances offers evidence of how much approaches vary in this still little-explored repertory. You can take your choice. Lesne has his engineers bring the microphone up to the soloists, whereas here, leader Sébastien Daucé chooses a more ambient approach that brings out instrumental detail. Lesne and his other soloists are stronger than the ones here, but Daucé may come closer to an authentic performance. Both choirs are small, probably in line with the private chamber circumstances for which these works were written; Daucé's group of 14 singers, mostly taking solos as well as singing in ensembles, is highly expressive even as it is woven into the more general texture. The album is accompanied by a DVD recorded at the Chapelle Royale at Versailles, but the main CDs were not: they come from small auditoriums in Grenoble and Amiens (apparently there were two sessions) that, as it happens, are entirely appropriate to the music. Recommended for Baroque buffs.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Cæcilia, virgo et martyr octo vocibus H. 397
1 01:27
2 03:47
3 04:37
4 01:47
5 01:08
6 05:02
7 01:40
8 01:55
9 01:45
10 06:46
Motet pour les trépassés à 8 H. 311
11 02:33
12 02:32
13 03:46
14 04:11
Judith, sive Bethulia liberata H. 391
15 00:28
16 00:59
17 02:52
18 02:23
19 01:51
20 00:27
21 02:14
22 03:06
23 03:46
24 00:51
25 02:56
26 02:35
27 06:03
28 00:48
29 01:40
30 00:43
31 01:39
32 04:21

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Mors Saülis et Jonathæ H. 403
1 00:28
2 01:28
3 02:26
4 05:37
5 00:39
6 03:14
7 01:48
8 01:41
9 01:56
10 00:58
11 02:04
12 02:04
13 03:01
14 04:34
15 00:51
16 03:23
Dialogus inter Christum et peccatores H. 425 & 425a
17 01:18
18 01:17
19 02:20
20 01:32
21 01:35
22 02:00
Dialogus inter Christum et homines H. 417
23 04:39
24 04:24
Élévation H. 408
25 01:46
26 01:30
27 01:52
28 02:50
29 03:00
Pestis Mediolnensis H. 398 & 398a
30 06:08
31 00:41
32 02:07
33 02:26

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
blue highlight denotes track pick