Review by Edward Kliszus
The marvelous, beautifully performed music by the Les Arts Florissants choral and instrumental ensemble is from a critical time period in human history, inspiring personal reflection on the historical and social significance of the Renaissance with humanism celebrating reason, scientific methodology, human agency, and value. One also considers the 72 year reign of Sun King Louis XIV and his ideals exemplifying the artistic and cultural awakening of Europe through his support of Molière, Racine, La Fontaine, Charles Le Brun, Pierre Mignard, Antoine Coysevox, and Hyacinthe Rigaud, composers and musicians such as Jean-Baptiste Lully and François Couperin, institutions like the Académie Française, Académie Royale de Danse, and Académie d’Opéra, artists like André Charles Boulle and Rigaud, and of course, his Château Versailles and its Chapelle Royale, an apposite, magnificent location for a performance of Charpentier’s musical works.
Expertly directed and accompanied on the organ by William Christie, the program consisted of Charpentier’s Grand Motets: Te Deum H. (Hitchcock catalog number) 147, Pange lingua H. 61, Litanies à la Vierge H. 83, Pestis Mediolanensis H. 398 & H. 398a, Sonate pour deux flûtes allemandes, deux dessus de violon, basse de viole, basse, de violon à cinq cordes, clavecin et théorbe H. 548, extracts: Grave – Chaconne, and Nuptiae sacrae H. 412.
The musicians included Sopranos Elodie Fonnard *, Maud Gnidzaz *, Juliette Perret *, Virginie Thomas * High-tenors Sean Clayton *, Clément Debieuvre *, Constantin Goubet, Marcio Soares Holanda, Tenors Martin Candela *, Thibaut Lenaerts, Jean-Yves Ravoux, Antonin Rondepierre *, Bass Laurent Collobert, Cyril Costanzo *, Simon Dubois, Marc Mauillon *, Instrumentalists. Violins Catherine Girard, Patrick Oliva, Viola Simon Heyerick, Cello Elena Andreyev, Viola da gamba Lucile Boulanger, Recorder Tiam Goudarzi and Jan Van Hoecke. (*soloists)
This was a beautifully filmed, performed, and recorded performance of polyphonic masterpieces, beckoning the listener to suspend the imagination and enter the court of Louis XIV and the magnificent setting of the Chapelle Royale. This was a superb performance in a fine, visually opulent setting, effectively conveying the imagination and spirit of the music. One is enveloped in the rich, vibrant sounds of singers and instrumentalists. What a treat to hear and see world-class musicians perform important historical works of great beauty, exemplifying their dedication both to the vital import of this period of music and their respective artistry—wonderful blend, balance, subtlety, and expression.
The Ensemble expertly presented music, art, and architecture with spirituality, purity, sincerity, mastery, and informed expertise, aptly characterizing evolution and history influenced by the philosophies of the late Renaissance. In this setting, the music’s intent, passions and meanings are gently projected through Affektenlehre, arousing human emotions of the listener of then and now, who perhaps ruminated about equality and freedom while reflecting on John Locke’s view that human rights emanate from a divine God. After all, just a bit later in time, Thomas Jefferson crafted the bill of rights.
This production was filmed without a live audience on February 28, 2021, thanks to the support of the American Friends of Les Arts Florissants. Upcoming events can be found here or by typing tinyurl.com/xzx5ntjb. The full program for this concert is found here or at tinyurl.com/yps8tkt8.
The Foundation for Les Arts Florissants has shared their passion for the art of baroque with the world for more than 40 years. Their work and dedication are critical and enrich our intellectual, artistic, emotional and spiritual lives. Please support Les Arts Florissants by joining the membership program and making a tax-deductible donation here or at tinyurl.com/2ku6ft6w.
Bravo and bien fait!
Runtime: 74 minutes.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Organ and Orchestra by The American Symphony, The American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 by the Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra.