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Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Langue disponible : anglais
Marc-Antoine Charpentier was long completely forgotten and then hailed in the late 20th century as a Baroque genius. He studied in Italy, but made his career in France, where he developed a style with both French and Italian influences, notable for its lyricism and penetrating psychological depth. Charpentier received relatively little acclaim during his lifetime. Charpentier was born in Paris, in 1643. In the mid-1660s, he traveled to Rome, where he spent three years studying with Carissimi and mastering the Italian style. Upon his return to Paris, Charpentier accepted employment and patronage from the powerful and pious Marie de Lorraine, known as Mademoiselle de Guise, last scion of the illustrious Guise family. He wrote La descente d'Orphée aux enfers, seven other musical dramas, and some large religious works for her. In 1672, already known for his religious music, Charpentier agreed to provide incidental music for Molière comedies. With astounding facility, the church composer wrote witty, charming, and delightful music in perfect consonance with Molière's comedic genius, as exemplified by the extraordinary score for Le Malade imaginaire. Nevertheless, church music remained Charpentier's primary vocation, and he steadily wrote masses, motets, hymns, and various other liturgical pieces. He won the favor of the King with a powerful motet, In obitum gallorum Reginae Lamentum, written on the death of Queen Marie-Thérèse, and was encouraged to compete for the position of sous-maître organist of the Royal Chapel. Unfortunately, Charpentier fell ill after advancing to the semi-finals and withdrew from the contest. King Louis gave him a pension as compensation. After Mademoiselle de Guise died in 1688, Charpentier found employment at the Collège de Louis-le-Grand, where his accomplishments included the Latin oratorio David et Jonathas, a dramatic masterpiece. His next post was at the Jesuit Church of St. Louis, where he composed music for various aspects of the Catholic liturgy. Charpentier was music teacher to Philippe, Duke of Chartres, and later the regent of France, for a period stretching over 1692-1693. At the end of 1693, Charpentier's Medée, a tragédie en musique, had its premiere at the Academie Royale. If the composer thought this extraordinary work would secure him a royal appointment, he was mistaken, for the audience seemed deaf to the music. In 1698, Charpentier became music master for children at the Sainte-Chapelle, remaining there until his death. Two and a half centuries later, millions heard the opening bars of his stunningly brilliant Te Deum (H. 146), selected as the Eurovision song contest official theme. A master of harmonic and melodic invention, Charpentier satisfies the three prerequisites for beauty formulated by St. Thomas Aquinas: consonantia (harmony), integritas (perfection), and claritas (brilliance). This quintessentially Catholic composer ingeniously resolved the perceived conflict between faith and pure beauty by creating music in which devotion and beauty cannot be separated. Indeed, musicologist Catherine Cessac captured the essence of Charpentier's music when she wrote that the "grandeur and originality of Charpentier's music is due to a combination of exceptional musical talent and deep faith, each complementing the other."
© TiVo Staff /TiVo
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