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GRAMOPHONE (11/2023)
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Harmonia Mundi

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Reviewer :
Edward Breen

It’s not just that MarcAntoine Charpentier (1643-1704) is so well known for his Messe de minuit or that Ensemble Correspondances already have such a well-lauded relationship with his music that you should pay attention to this new album. It’s also because this programme offers two of Charpentier’s dramatic motets previously known primarily from performances by William Christie. The comparison is favourable and fascinating.


Daucé’s direction shines through from the start with Brossard’s Elevatio O miraculum!. My overwhelming reaction to this disc is to praise the warmth of the sound; but the captivating hushed opening of this motet combined with the softly accented Latin is breathtaking.


Charpentier’s two dramatic motets are well contrasted and align this programme almost exactly with Christie’s 2001 Erato recording. Daucé digs deep for a really sombre tone for In nativitatem Domini canticum, H416, which works beautifully for the prelude but hinders the solo comforting the daughter of Sion. It’s all worth it, though, for the interlude ‘Nuit’, which Graham Sadler in his excellent note likens to a Lullian sommeil. Yet, despite such richness in both harmony and performance, I was baffled by an Angel who delivers such important news in a crestfallen manner. I prefer more declamatory Angels, as with Les Arts Florissants. Luckily, in In Nativitate Domini Nostri Jesu Christi canticum for upper voices, H421, Anne-Sophie Petit’s Angelus is delightfully engaging, as is the chorus of shepherds singing ‘Surgamus, properemus’.


The Mass is a delight, from the perky opening Kyrie to the mesmeric closing Agnus Dei, the ensemble tight, the texture varied and the dance influences always on point. I especially enjoyed the Pifa-esque Alma redemptoris mater, H44, and the festive outburst of recorders in the noël Laissez paîtres vos bêtes. The instrumental textures provided by Ensemble Correspondances are testament to their virtuosity, the ensemble’s tasteful ornamentation and nuanced articulation continually highlighting layers of beauty and intricacy in Charpentier’s music.


In short, Daucé brings out the celebratory warmth even if occasionally at the expense of the drama, and this new album can sit proudly alongside William Christie’s accounts.

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