Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Catholic faith was infused with an Ignatian spirituality that inspired his conviction that liturgical music is not only an offering of worship to God, but a means of intensifying believers' religious experience, opening them to the deep significance of the texts being set. With this motivation, he employed all the resources at his disposal to draw listeners close to the experience of the biblical story being told, or to the feeling the liturgical text was intended to inspire. The result is music of intensely explicit emotional communicativeness, using extremes of expressiveness to move the listener. There is no clearer example of this than his oratorio, Le reniement de St. Pierre (The denial of St. Peter). Charpentier's music so vividly depicts the actions of the characters that a cursory knowledge of the story makes it possible to follow the unfolding events without needing to refer to the text. The concluding chorus is one of the most wrenching moments in Baroque music; even to modern sensibilities, its harmonic contortions depicting Peter's plummet into despair as he "went out and wept bitterly" remain astonishing. The other works collected here are similarly demonstrative expressions of Charpentier's skills in depicting emotional extremes. Ensemble William Byrd, conducted by Graham O'Reilly, performs with dazzling intensity. The performers clearly understand Charpentier's theological and musical intent, and while they sing and play with great tonal purity, they bring to the music an emotional rawness that's breathtaking. Pan's sound is exemplary -- clean, warm, and present.
Charpentier: Le Jugement Dernier Review
by Stephen Eddins