Hymne à la Vierge
A Weekend of Excessively Good Taste. Music of the French Baroque – 2
Orchestra of the Age Enlightenment, Eamonn Dougan
Kings Place, 26 November 2016
Charpentier: Ave Regina H. 45, Litanies a la Vierge H. 90, Pro omnibus festis BVM H.333, Pulchra es a3 H.52, Regina Caeli H.46, Alma Redemptoris H.44, Litanies a la Vierge H.83;
F. Couperin: Concerto Royale No. 1
Monsieur de Saint-Colombe: Les Pleurs;
Marin Marais: Pieces de viole, Livre III: Suite No. 7 in G, Allemande le Magnifique
Robert de Visée: Prélude, Allemande, Les Sylvains de Mr Couprin, par Mr de Viseé
As the title suggested, this concert focussed on vocal music for Marian devotion, and in particular, that written by Marc-Antoine Charpentier. There is an unproven suggestion that he travelled to Rome to study painting, although he certainly built the foundations of his future musical career whilst studying with Carissimi. On his return, he joined the household of Marie of Lorraine, the Duchess of Guise in the privileged role of house composer. The musical bond between the Duchess and Charpentier was clearly strong, not least in their mutual admiration for Italian music and in devotion to the Virgin Mary. For around 17 years, until Marie’s death, Charpentier wrote for the musicians of her household, producing some of the most beautiful music from the whole French Baroque era, most of it in praise of the BVM. He later moved to posts at the Jesuit St Paul-St Louis and eventually to the Royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle.
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Helper and Protector
Italian Maestri in Poland
The Sixteen, Eamonn Dougan
Coro COR16141. 67’32
Eamonn Dougan, associate conductor of The Sixteen, continues his exploration of music from Poland with this CD of music by Italian musicians in the late 16th century during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa. Sigismund III ruled the Polish/Lithuanian state at a time of religious upheaval. Raised a Catholic his Polish mother in the Protestant Sweden of his father (the King of Sweden), he soon became involved in the Counter-Reformation, seeking out musicians from Rome to help in his quest.
The most notably of these was Luca Marenzio, represented here principally by his superb Missa super Iniquos odio habui. This is the first complete recording of this work, much of which Continue reading →
Such is the profile and schedule of The Sixteen that I was surprised to find that their short tour of the Monteverdi Vespers was the first time they had toured with orchestra and choir together. Of their eight venues (six cathedrals, and two concert halls), I saw them in Guildford Cathedral (on 30 Jan), a pared-down Gothic building designed in the 1930s and finally opened in 1961. The acoustics are good, at least from my seat close to the performers, who were positioned in what would have been termed ‘the crossing’ (in front of the choir and chancel) if there had been proper transepts. Very professional looking TV cameras broadcast to monitors to the sell-out audience down the long nave. The sequence of movements was what has become the traditional one, as were several other aspects of the performance including, arguably, taking the sequialtera passages too fast. The (more substantial) Magnificat was sung at higher pitch. With 20 singers and 24 instrumentalists, this was an aurally powerful performance, although the tiny box organ was only occasionally audible. The use of such organs is common in the UK although I urge you to try and hear the Vespers (and any Bach cantatas, for that matter) performed with a church organ (for example, see my review of the Cantar Lontano recording in the October 2014 Early Music Review). The rest of the continuo group was cello, violone, chitarrone, harp and dulcian, with string/recorders and cornett/sackbuts divided left and right. The vocal soloists, all stepping forward from the choir, were sopranos Grace Davidson and Charlotte Mobbs, tenors Mark Dobell and Jeremy Budd and basses Ben Davies and Eamonn Dougan – all most impressive. Relatively limited use was made of the available space, the main exception being the tenor/theorbo duet Nigra Sum which was performed from halfway down the central aisle, and Jeremy Budd singing Audi coelum from the pulpit. The echo passages were sung from somewhere towards the altar. As with their other cathedral venues, the singers in the Sonata sopra Sancta Maria were the local cathedral choristers, in this case Guildford’s very able girls choir.