In the Salve regina à trois chœurs
, the third choir is treated differently from the other two. Whereas they are in four parts, this is in three parts only. Moreover, it enters only at the second section and is consistently labelled ‘exules’ (‘exiles’). These factors, together with the soloistic nature of the individual lines, support the idea that this ‘choir’ was a trio of soloists. The term ‘exules’ might further suggest that it was spatially separated from the others. The work falls into three sections. The first is characterized by a clear reference to the Salve regina
plainsong in the opening vocal entries. In the second, Charpentier graphically paints the emotive text; at the reference to ‘this valley of tears’ there is a chromatic descent in all parts resulting in strikingly dissonant harmonies. It was surely such expressive harmony that inspired Serré de Rieux to comment (1734) that ‘ninths and tritones sparkled in [Charpentier’s] hands’. Towards the end of the Salve regina
, repetitions of the apostrophe ‘O’ are grouped in threes and scored in turn for the whole ensemble, then the first choir, and finally the ‘exiles’, producing a double-echo effect.
from notes by Shirley Thompson © 2004