Music in the 17th Century:
Born in Paris,
Charpentier studied with the famous Italian composer Carissimi in
Rome, then returned to Paris
1670, joining the household of the Duchess of Guise as a singer
and as the maître de musique. In 1672
he succeeded the famous French composer and conductor Jean-Bapiste Lully as
composer for the theater company of the famous French playwrite
composed his beautiful leçons de ténèbres
and répons in 1680 and they were then sung at
the Duchess of Guise died in 1688, Charpentier was employed by the
Jesuits. Later he became maître de musique at the collège
Louis-le-Grand, rue Saint-Jacques, then after that l'église
Saint-Louis, rue Saint-Antoine.
worked for the Jesuits, Charpentier's only musical tragedy, Médée, was
performed at the l'Académie
royale de musique. The
premier took place on December 4, 1693.
In 1698 he became maître de chapelle at the
in Paris. During this last period he wrote his masterworks Messe
Assumpta est Maria, the oratorio Judicium
Salomonis, and l'offertoire de la Messe Rouge
destined to be played annually at le parlement. On February 24, 1704, Charpentier died.
Almost all of what
remains of Charpentier's religious music comes from this period, the last twenty years of his life. It includes
not only his famous Te Deum, but also the
beautiful Christmas midnight mass and the Missa Assumpta est Maria.
It is here, in the composition of sacred music, that Charpentier's
true genius lies.
to combine the sensuousness of the Italian music that he had studied
under Carissimi with the pomp and grandeur of French court music.
The result is a distinctive style, decorative yet profound,
expansive yet personal, that was a considerable influence on
successive generations of French composers.
lifetime, no matter however widely admired he was, Charpentier never
attained his ambition of an official post at the court of Louis
XIV, the Sun King. This was
largely due to his rival, the egotistic Jean-Baptiste Lully who enjoyed royal
patronage and allegedly conspired against Charpentier in order
that he himself might maintain this high position in the king's court.
Charpentier did, however, gain an
appointment as musician to the king's son, the Dauphin, and the
king eventually granted him a pension in 1683 in recognition of
For nearly three
centuries, Marc-Antoine Charpentier was all but forgotten while his contemporary, Jean-Baptiste
Lully, had gone down in history as the greatest composer of his time. But now we
must state that Charpentier was actually the greater of the two,
displaying in his work impressive breadth of range - from the pomp
of the court and the flamboyance of the theatre to the intimacy of
the private chapel. His music captures the essence of the French
nobility in its prime, before the French revolution swept it away.
It is simply beautiful.
Te Deum; Messe de Minuit de Noël
de Ténèbres du Jeudi Saint
We thank the Goldberg
Early Music Portal and the Charpentier
Website for much of the information contained in this article.
Campra isn't fully a 17th Century French composer as some of his great sacred
compositions were written after 1700. However, he must be
described on this page, along with our discussion of his forbearer,
in Aix-en-Provence, Campra grew up in the south of France where he
learned music from Guillaume Poitevin. During 1681 to 1683 he
served as maître de chapelle in Toulon, Saint-Trophime in Arles,
then he went to Saint-Etienne in Toulouse. In 1694 he became maître de
chapelle at the magnificent Notre-Dame in Paris, where Perotin's
music had been sung 500 years previous. His first book of motets
appeared in 1695, the second in 1699. Campra left Notre Dame in
1700 to pursue a career in opera. He
returned to sacred composition in 1623 when he was appointed sous-maître at
the Chapel of the King. There he wrote three masses, a plainchant
hymn, sixty motets for solo voices, and fifty-one grand motets for
soloists, chorus and orchestra.
This is an amazing CD!
on the Goldberg Early Music Portal
Works on CD
|| Harmonia Mundi
(sop) arion ens
Deum/notus in judea/Deus in nomine tuo