Concerto delle Donne

 

Review: Early Music Review – February 2006

 

 

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Music for the Virgin Mary

Concerto delle Donne

Signum Classics SIGCD073

 

This disc has several items in common with a 1998 Virgin Veritas French release (see EMR48, p19) and also shares several of its virtues and vices.

 The recording was made in Notre Dame, Rozay-en-Brie, and makes use of that church’s fabulous 1690 organ, an instrument which has apparently had only one restoration and that recently enough to be sympathetic. Even the original keys are still in place, so one’s fingers literally follow paths once traced by the Couperins, among others.

 The programme is devised in such a way that there is a narrative thread running through it and the vocal items are complemented by organ pieces.

 The music is all pretty much out of the top drawer and has been carefully prepared, even if the French pronunciation of the Latin does not always sound completely natural. There is much to enjoy though I do have reservations about some aspects of performance practice.

 The use of organ only for the continuo means that the bass line itself sometimes lacks the definition an added theorbo and/or gamba would bring. The other issue that raises an eyebrow is the use of a small choir in some pieces. This is entirely appropriate and provided for in the fauxbourdon verses of the Port Royal Magnificat and Stabat Mater but elsewhere solo/ripieno alternations are imposed that are rather harder to justify – and the principals do cope very nicely on their own.

 

David Hansell