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Klassiek - Verschenen op 25 augustus 2017 | harmonia mundi

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Marc-Antoine Charpentier always had an ambiguous relationship with opera. While living in Rome in the late 1660s he had a chance to familiarise himself with this fast-expanding vocal genre. When he returned to Paris, some time around 1670, he was able to witness the creation of the Académie Royale de Musique, followed by the birth of the tragédie en musique, that typically French genre elaborated by Jean-Baptiste Lully over a lengthy period. Although his functions with his new patrons, particularly the Jesuits and the Grand Dauphin, tended to push him in the direction of sacred music, Charpentier was often tempted to write operatic works. Unfortunately, like all his contemporaries, he came up against the hegemony of the jealous Lully, who ensured the doors of the Opéra remained closed to him. It was not until 1693, six years after the Lully’s death, that he finally gained access to that institution; his only tragédie en musique, Médée, was a failure - deemed too dense, too learned. Yet Charpentier’s attraction for musical theatre may be observed throughout his career, in the numerous scores of incidental music, his two biblical tragedies intended for the Jesuit colleges, and above all the divertissements. Charpentier’s divertissements are on a small scale (a few scenes or else short one-act pieces) and conceived for relatively modest forces. Their inspiration is mythological, allegorical or heroic; they mingle light-hearted and dramatic elements. In all these respects, they owe a great deal to the genre of the pastorale en musique, the earliest specimens of which contributed to the rise of French opera. Alongside his motets and histoires sacrées in Latin intended for the devotions of the princess, Charpentier invented for her more secular recreations, small vocal forms sung in French, genuine miniature operas tailor-made for the little company of musicians she maintained at her Parisian town house.These chamber operas, marginal in comparison to the large-scale tragédie en musique cultivated by Lully, occupy a highly individual place in the late seventeenth-century musical landscape. The last short opera Charpentier wrote for the princess, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers (late 1686-early 1687), constitutes in its breadth and dramatic density a little gem of seventeenth-century French vocal art. References to the myth of the shepherd musician are rare in French literature at that time. Only two eponymous tragedies had appeared before Charpentier’s little opera. In the domain of music, the French usually depicted Orpheus merely in his persona as a player of the lyre, in which he appears in several ballets de cour. Charpentier was therefore one of the first French composers to take up the myth in its full dimensions. He had already produced a version of it in 1683, in a short divertissement called Orphée descendant aux Enfers, which may be regarded as the earliest example of the French cantata, another miniature vocal genre that was to flourish in the aristocratic gatherings of the early eighteenth century. Conceived on a larger scale, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers unfolds over two acts. The first installs the listener in the bucolic universe typical of the pastorale, peopled by nymphs who have come to celebrate with carefree joy the wedding of Eurydice with the shepherd Orpheus. But Eurydice is mortally wounded by a serpent, and soon sees her strength ebbing away. Her sudden death leaves her companions and Orpheus distraught and tearful. Then Apollo convinces his son to go to beseech Pluto, and try to make him yield to the power of his songs. The more extended Act Two retraces Orpheus’ difficult quest through the Underworld, where he charms first of all the damned souls, in the hope of bringing Eurydice back with him. Charpentier’s manuscript stops at the point when Orpheus commences his journey back to the light, leaving the denizens of the Underworld in despair at his departure. One may therefore surmise that the work, which thus sets only part of the myth, has come down to us incomplete, or that the composer left it unfinished. It is true that the autograph manuscript exhibits none of the conclusive gestures he often uses. But why not, on the contrary, envisage the hypothesis that Charpentier consciously crafted this conclusion, which leaves the myth in suspense, without the edifying moral resolution which the litterati of the time were generally so fond of. For the work does possess a genuine musical conclusion, in the yearning Sarabande légère danced by the Shades deploring the departure of Orpheus, who leaves them only “so sweet a memory” of his songs. If this ending is indeed deliberate, the work assumes a particular emphasis and may be read as an optimistic interpretation of the myth, which is considered more as an allegory of the union of body and soul. A symbol of the fragility of humanity, but also of its ability to surpass itself in defiance of the ineluctable laws of nature, Charpentier’s Orpheus thus embodies the full creative force that the power of love can elicit, and, finally, in a humanistic ideal, also represents the perfection that the human soul can attain through art. © SM/Qobuz
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 10 januari 2020 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet
The Orpheus myth was as important for the birth of opera in France as it had been in Italy. In 1684, Charpentier composed a work for three voices, Orphée descendant aux Enfers. With this piece, remarkable for its style and concision, he showed how well he had assimilated Carissimi’s art. It is a dramatic scene, similar to the ‘sacred histories’ of the Roman master. The text, by an unknown author, narrates Orpheus’ quest for his beloved in the Underworld. The hero’s haute-contre gives him an elegiac timbre – this was the vocal register in which Charpentier, himself a singer, excelled. In 1687 he created his second illustration of the myth, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers. In its two acts can be discerned the outline of a possible complete opera – the manuscript has reached us shorn of the third act in which Orpheus would presumably have lost Eurydice before being devoured by the Maenads. While La Descente d’Orphée has already been recorded several times, the Orphée of 1684 is a rarity and a magnificent discovery. In these two roles that might have been written for him, Reinoud van Mechelen is at the peak of his artistry, while his ensemble A Nocte Temporis and Lionel Meunier’s group Vox Luminis blend in perfect symbiosis. © Alpha Classics
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 1 januari 1978 | Warner Classics

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Sacred Oratorios - Verschenen op 12 april 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 1 juni 2010 | Zig-Zag Territoires

Onderscheidingen Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 25 september 2020 | Ambronay Éditions

Booklet Onderscheidingen 4F de Télérama
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Religieuze vocale muziek - Verschenen op 19 januari 2015 | harmonia mundi

Onderscheidingen Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles Classica
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Volledige opera's - Verschenen op 5 januari 1982 | harmonia mundi

Booklet Onderscheidingen 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles Classica
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Religieuze vocale muziek - Verschenen op 26 augustus 2013 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama - Le Choix de France Musique - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Hi-Res Audio
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Religieuze vocale muziek - Verschenen op 21 oktober 2016 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen 5 de Diapason - 4F de Télérama
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 25 augustus 2014 | Alia Vox

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 20 juni 1986 | harmonia mundi

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Opera - Verschenen op 20 augustus 1984 | harmonia mundi

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 12 juni 2012 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles Classica - Hi-Res Audio
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 8 oktober 1990 | harmonia mundi

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 20 augustus 1981 | harmonia mundi

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Opera - Verschenen op 18 mei 2018 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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Klassiek - Verschenen op 1 januari 2003 | Archiv Produktion

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Klassiek - Verschenen op 28 oktober 2016 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Onderscheidingen 4F de Télérama
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Religieuze vocale muziek - Verschenen op 1 januari 2002 | Glossa

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