Notes & Reviews:
On this live recording from the Chapelle Royale at the Chateau de Versailles, Olivier Schneebeli and Les Pages & les Chantres du Centre de musique baroque de Versailles illuminate Marc-Antoine Charpentier's admirable synthesis of Italian chiaroscuro and the radiant grace of the French Baroque. The disc presents two of the composer's Histoires sacrées - Judith sive Bethulia liberate and Caedes Sanctorum Innocentium. Stimulated by his years of training in Rome, these works represent a kind of "sacred theatre." They deploy unprecedented vocal and instrumental invention to portray major episodes from the Old and New Testaments, focusing on their emotional and psychological aspects.
American Record Guide, September/October 2013
As a student and disciple of Carissimi - the great formulator of the Latin oratorio of the Counter-Reformation, Charpentier devoted a lot of his talents to creating such works of his own, using stories or ideas from the Bible. His oratorios, or histoires sacrees, were also in Latin, also varying in length. Judith sive Bethulia Liberata (Judith or the Liberation of Bethulia) is one of the first of his oratorios, and the longest. To my knowledge, there has only been one earlier recording of this score. It dates from 1979, by English soloists - my gosh, there is future Wotan John Tomlinson! - chorus, and orchestra under one Guy Cornut. It was released by Erato, and also by Musical Heritage Society, on LPs, and then came out very briefly in an Erato CD. Caedes Sanctorum Innocentium (The Massacre of the Holy Innocents), on the other hand, seems to appear here for the first time on records. The opposition of mothers and soldiers (women vs. men) makes for some nice choral moments. The performances are quite good, in Schneebeli's experienced hands. The singers are just fine, with a particularly suave. Richard brings a powerful baritone voice and real theatrical flair in portraying the two "heavies" in the casts. Soloists join variously in ensembles, and the choral assemblage is sonorous and vigorous. The notes, in parallel French and English, are adequate for the music. In general, though, this is a valuable addition to recordings of Charpentier's important para-liturgical sacred music.