There already existed two recordings of this delectable short chamber-scale
opera, the last which Charpentier composed:
– Les Arts Florissants/William Christie – Erato 0630119132
(mid-price, or budget-price download) or Warner 2564617852 (4 CDs for
around £16, with Divertissements, Les Plaisirs de Versailles, In nativitatem Domini) or download only with the contents of the
4-CD set plus music by Couperin, Monteverdi, Mozart, Purcell, Rameau, etc.,
7½ hours around £17.
– Boston Early Music Festival Chorus and Orchestra/Paul O’Dette,
Stephen Stubbs – CPO 7778762 (full-price, with La Couronne des Fleurs). Recording of the Month –
DL News 2014/10
Both these have a great deal to recommend them: the Christie can be
obtained very inexpensively, especially as a download or in the 4-CD pack
with some other fine music, while the Boston
version comes with a substantial 26-minute filler, the only current
recording of La Couronne des Fleurs. Both are well played and
recorded and choice between them can safely be left to price and coupling.
Now along comes another recording, also very well performed and available
in 24-bit sound for only a little more than 16-bit. ($14.75 and $12.29
respectively). It’s only at 44.1 kHz but it sounds excellent).
Ensemble Correspondances and Sébastien Daucé already have serial form –
very good form – in recording Charpentier and his contemporaries. In December 2016 Harmonia Mundi
released a recording of his Pastorale de Noël and other Christmas
music, which elicited high praise from Johan van Veen –
– and Simon Thompson was equally lyrical in
their 2-CD set of the music associated with Louis XIV in his role as Sun
King, as was I in recommending their recording of De Lalande’s Tenebræ in
DL News 2015/3. Earlier still they achieved another Recording of the Month rating from
Johan van Veen for Charpentier’s Litanies de la Vierge –
– a performance which I rated as sumptuous –
DL News 2013/13.
Charpentier himself seems to have sung the title role in the first
performance, probably before the Dauphin, but I can hardly imagine that he
would have found fault with Robert Getchell in that role here or, indeed,
with any of the singers. It’s not a major point, but it’s good to have a
genuine haute-contre rather than a high tenor as Orpheus and in the
part of Ixion.
The new recording comes with a very adequate set of notes, libretto and
translation, but that which accompanies the CPO – also available with the
download – is stunning in its detail.
In my review of the Litanies recording I mentioned the CD cover as
my only excuse for nit-picking. Compare the CPO and Erato covers with the
drab equivalent for new release and you may well react similarly.
Lovers of French baroque music are well served by these three recordings:
the only problem is making a choice. We now have three very fine recordings of this
attractive music, so you won’t go wrong with any of them,
least of all with the new Harmonia Mundi. If you have not yet made the
acquaintance of Sebastien Daucé and his team, this or any of the other
albums which I’ve mentioned awaits you.