Christmas List 2003: M. A. CHARPENTIER: MESSE DE MINUIT POUR NOL & TE DEUM
Aradia Ensemble, directed by Kevin Mallon
For me there is nothing I love more than opening Christmas day with Charpentier's rousing Te Deum - which I have done ever since that magnificent recording from Les Arts Florrisant under William Christie first came on to the market. Ultimately it is this version that I get most satisfaction from, now re-released in SACD format - which I have not heard as yet. However, here comes budget label Naxos to try and knock it off its perch. Its first assault comes with combining the Te Deum, H.146, with the beautiful Messe de Minuit pour Nol, H.9, so that we get works that bring Christmas Eve and Christmas Day cleverly together, though - and this is a chink in its armour - we are given, in order of programme, the Te Deum, followed by the Dixit Dominus, H.204, before the Mass.
A stirring timpani solo awakes us before the famous opening to the Te Deum spells out the works magnificence. The Aradia Ensemble from Canada under their sharp stylistic director Kevin Mallon (all of whom feature on a growing number of stylistically convincing CDs devoted to Charpentier on the Naxos label) produce a thrilling performance that competes on the same level as Christie's version. This will not disappoint; the soloists, choir and orchestra are truly superb and leave one wanting more. And more we get; the motet Dixit Dominus relies less on the qualities of magnifying splendour found in the previous work, but it is a delicious filler between the Te Deum and the Mass. The Messe de Minuit pour Nol is a bucolic delight from beginning to end. Its spirit is wonderfully captured as the Kyrie is broken up with three Nol's - one is given a French Canadian setting with the Huron Nol Une jeune pucelle - before Charpentier drives us over that splendid fusion of Italian harmonic sumptuousness with a French dancing lilt that makes it all the more alluring.
I shall revel in both versions of the Te Deum this Christmas, as I can't get enough of this composer, but at budget price for the Canadian's stunning tribute should your collection be so bereft?
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