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Charpentier: La Descente [Aaron Sheehan, Amanda Forsythe, Douglas Williams] [CPO: 777876-2] Import

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Conductor: Paul O'Dette, Stephen Stubbs
  • Composer: Marc-Antoine Charpentier
  • Audio CD (28 April 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: cpo
  • ASIN: B00I9OFUE0
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,387 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Product Description

Product Description

Aaron Sheehan, Teresa Wakim, Amanda Forsythe, Jesse Blumberg, Boston Early Music Festival, Vocal and Chamber Ensembles, Paul O'Dette, Stephen Stubbs

CPO presents a new release from the Boston Early Music Festival. These two baroque operas, composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, which prove to be both complex and highly entertaining.

Review

"A rewarding Baroque double bill, both works dramatically and imaginatively presented and performed." --Gramophone, September 2014

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Format: Audio CD
This excellent disc offers the listener two of Charpentier’s Pastorale, or short dramatic scenarios. The first, La Couronne de Fleures, or Crown of Flowers, is a celebration of Louis XIV and of one of his military victories in particular. The action takes place on the site of one of Louis victories, when Flora, the goddess of flowers institutes a competition to see who can best some up the magnificence of the French king in poetry and music, the winner receiving the Couronne de Fleures. After various offerings from the shepherds and shepherdesses Pan appears to call an end to the proceedings, with each of the participants receiving a flower from Flora. The libretto is by Jean Palaprat, although it is based on the prologue of the Charpentier/Molière collaboration, Le Malade imaginaire, from some twelve years earlier, this work had been quite a success, so much so that after Molière’s premature death, Lully used his power and influence to have the work banned, it is therefore a case of
Charpentier reworking earlier materiel, something he does successfully! Having re-listened to my copy of Le Malade imaginaire, you can clearly hear echoes of the original, but this new version certainly brings new life to the work.
The second work, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers, sadly incomplete, brings us the story of Orpheus in the underworld, said to be the story set by more opera composers than any other.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Crown and the Underworld with the Boston Early Music Festival 8 May 2014
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The Boston Early Music Festival has become an internationally recognized leader in the period performance of early music. Founded in 1980, the BEMF began offering a Chamber Ensemble series in 2008. In 2011, the Chamber Ensemble presented two short rare operas by the French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 -- 1704): "The Crown of Flowers" and "The Descent of Orpheus to the Underworld". The Chamber Ensemble recorded these two works for this new CD on the CPO label in 2013.

During his life, Charpentier was hindered by the jealousy of the Court composer, Jean Baptiste Lully (1632 -- 1687). Charpentier still managed to compose an extraordinary amount of music, both religious and secular. The two works on this CD probably were composed between 1685 -- 1687. The performances on this CD are by a small chamber ensemble of ten musicians playing violin, viola de gamba, oboe and recorder, theorbo, baroque guitar, and harpsichord and organ. Each opera includes an identical cast of eight solo singers together with a chorus. Paul O'Dette and Stephen Stubbs are the directors.

It is a joy to hear the music and performance in both these works. The music is lyrical and dancelike. The melodic vocal lines are beautiful to follow with clearly articulated French diction. There is an intricate interplay between the voice and the subtle but simple instrumentation. The ensemble comments upon the vocal score in many ways, frequently in underlying counterpoint. The theorbo and guitar often are predominant, with the strings coming to the fore in some of the more intense sections. The instrumental interludes show close ensemble work. This music is fresh and delightful. While unmistakably French Baroque in character and rhythm, the two works show that Charpentier was gifted with his own unique voice.

The first work on the CD, "The Crown of Flowers" was based upon an earlier collaboration between Charpentier and Moliere and remained unpublished during the composer's life. It is a pastorale, which celebrates both the coming of spring and regeneration and the glories of Louis XIV in bringing an end to one of his many wars. The goddess of flowers, Flore, offers the reward of a garland of flowers to the singer who can offer the best praise to Louis XIV. Several singers compete during the course of the short work until the god Pan decrees that there can be no victor. Flore distributes individual flowers to each contestant. For all the fulsome praise to the monarch, this music celebrates timeless themes of poetry and rebirth. In its lightness, the music transports the listener to a different world.

The longer work on the CD is the two-act opera based on the Orpheus legend. It is unusual in that it does not tell the entire story and was probably left unfinished. The opera begins with the same pastorale qualities as "The Crown of Flowers" with Orpheus and Euridice about to be married until Euridice is fatally bitten by a snake. The god Apollo urges Orpheus to go to the underworld to pursuade Pluto to allow Euridice to return to life. Charpentier's opera ends with Pluto giving his reluctant consent with the notorious condition attached. This opera is a songlike telling of the Orfeus story. The music has a translucent character and consists entirely of airs and instrumental interludes with no sections of recitif. Tenor Aaron Sheehan sings the role of Orpheus. His several airs pleading with Pluto and his wife Proserpine leave the listener no doubt of the power of beautiful music to conquer death.

The liner notes to this CD include extended scholarly essays on both works, synopses, librettos and translations, and background information on the BEMF and on each performer. It is inspiring that two American period ensembles have been responsible for the revival of interest in Charpentier: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants and the Boston Early Music Festival. While lovers of the French Baroque and period performances will be most interested in this CD, Charpentier will appeal to all music lovers. The Naxos label, which distributes the CD, kindly provided me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Total Time: 79:11

Robin Friedman
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It will bring hours of enjoyment and I can’t recommend it highly enough! 29 May 2014
By Stuart Sillitoe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This excellent disc offers the listener two of Charpentier’s Pastorale, or short dramatic scenarios. The first, La Couronne de Fleures, or Crown of Flowers, is a celebration of Louis XIV and of one of his military victories in particular. The action takes place on the site of one of Louis victories, when Flora, the goddess of flowers institutes a competition to see who can best some up the magnificence of the French king in poetry and music, the winner receiving the Couronne de Fleures. After various offerings from the shepherds and shepherdesses Pan appears to call an end to the proceedings, with each of the participants receiving a flower from Flora. The libretto is by Jean Palaprat, although it is based on the prologue of the Charpentier/Molière collaboration, Le Malade imaginaire, from some twelve years earlier, this work had been quite a success, so much so that after Molière’s premature death, Lully used his power and influence to have the work banned, it is therefore a case of
Charpentier reworking earlier materiel, something he does successfully! Having re-listened to my copy of Le Malade imaginaire, you can clearly hear echoes of the original, but this new version certainly brings new life to the work.
The second work, La Descente d’Orphée aux Enfers, sadly incomplete, brings us the story of Orpheus in the underworld, said to be the story set by more opera composers than any other. Unfortunately, Charpentier only completed the first two acts, and it is those which are presented here, and whilst it may not be quite on a par with his true operatic masterpiece, Médée, there is a sense of real regret that Charpentier left the work incomplete, as on this evidence the finished work would have ranked alongside some of the finest French operas of the day!
These are excellent performances, with soloists, chorus and instrumentalists all being on top form, indeed it was difficult to single anyone out, however after saying that, Amanda Forsythe for her performances of Rosélie and Euridice, as well as Aaron Sheehan as Orphée are both worth special mention. The presentation of the disc is also worth mention, the disc comes in the usual jewel case which is contained in a slipcase containing a 120 page booklet which contains synopsis and full texts and translations. I have in the past had to turn to Catherine Cessac’s excellent book on Charpentier for information concerning the music, but the wonderful booklet essays by Gilbert Blin negates the need to go to the book, as they are models of what a booklet essay should be like!
All in all, everything about this recording is exemplary, it will bring hours of enjoyment and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars gorgeous, brilliant baroque, BEMF at its best 13 May 2014
By UES Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
a really lovely souvenir if BEMF's productions in Boston and New York of this wonderful baroque chamber work. i loved it at the Morgan Library and this is a faithful recording of the offering that night.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEMF's best to date 22 Oct. 2015
By Cembalista - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This album is one of the Boston Early Music Festival's finest, and well deserving of their Grammy win in the classical opera category—the musicians effortlessly capture the style and story of these captivating pastorales. This album is an excellent introduction to early music (or even opera) for the novice listener, as well as being extremely enjoyable to the early music enthusiast. The music is aesthetically pleasing and charming, with lilting melodies and an overall lighthearted feel. It is so superbly crafted and executed on a musical level that it clearly captures the natural ease of Charpentier's musical drama.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 9 July 2015
By Bill G - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great disc of a great opera featured in the 2013 Boston Early Music Festival. Thanks
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