The sacred music of the French Baroque has largely lacked champions of the sort that have revivified Italian Baroque performance, but the work of French conductor, keyboardist, and musicologist Sébastien Daucé is changing that situation. Born June 4, 1980, Daucé attended the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon and majored in early music. His training there was varied, encompassing harpsichord, organ, continuo playing, and conducting, and by 2006 he had fallen in with a
group of like-minded students who were interested in exploring French music of the late 17th century, above all that of Marc-Antoine Charpentier. In 2006 and 2007, he served as an assistant to Americo-French harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss at the Aix-en-Provence Lyric Arts Festival, gaining exposure to the circle of French Baroque performers surrounding Weiss' American-born associate, William Christie.
Certainly influenced by the pioneering historical-performance spirit of these figures, Daucé and his friends were interested in something else: the intimate, inward, and Italianate music of Charpentier more than the "flashy," "demonstrative" world of Lully. They officially came together as the Ensemble Correspondances in 2008. From the beginning, the group has been marked by a unique combination of musicological-research orientation and a committed spirit in performance. They have gotten beyond the few "hits" by Charpentier by playing through large amounts of unrecorded material themselves and noting what they liked best. The group toured Japan in 2009 to an enthusiastic reception. The first Ensemble Correspondances recording, O Maria! Psaumes et Motets Marc-Antoine Charpentier, appeared in 2010 on the Zig Zag Territoires label, and the group recorded one more album for Zig Zag Territoires before moving to the larger multinational Harmonia Mundi for the lovely and virtually unheard Litanies de la Vierge (Litanies of the Virgin) in 2012.
With seven albums on Harmonia Mundi under their belts by 2017, the Ensemble Correspondances had begun to explore composers other than Charpentier, although he remained central in their repertoire on recordings and in performance. They have recorded or made plans to record music by Antoine Boësset, Michel Richard de Lalande, Henri du Mont, and Etienne Moulinié, most of it all but unknown yet of central importance in the later years of what is rightly known as the Grand Siècle. Daucé often conducts from the organ in sacred music, favoring small groups that can convey the reflective quality of the music Charpentier wrote for his Italophilic patroness, Marie of Lorraine. ~ James Manheim