A contemporary of Lully and Lalande, Charpentier was something of an outsider to the French court of Louis XIV, something which helps to explain his comparative obscurity since his death in 1704. A period of study in Rome doubtless gave Charpentier exposure to the polychoral style long-established from the time of Gabrieli, and this spirited new recording from Ex Cathedra presents the triple-choir Salve regina alongside the opulent Mass—for four separate choirs. The possibilities opened up by such a wealth of musicians engender music which seems as close to the proverbial ‘choir of the angels of heaven’ as could be desired.
The disc also includes Salut de la veille des ‘O’, a setting of the seven antiphons for Christmas imploring God to come and save the earth, and the dramatic mini-oratorio La reniement de St Pierre, telling of Peter’s frantic denials of Christ before the inevitable crowing of the cock.
Performances by the soloists, choir and orchestra of Ex Cathedra perfectly capture the lavish atmosphere of the period, fully living up to the enviable reputation the group’s previous recordings have earned.