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A Night of Royal French Baroque Music with BEMF

Ensemble Correspondances
Courtesy of the Ensemble
Ensemble Correspondances

Sunday, November 15, 2020
7:00 PM

On WCRB In Concert with the Boston Early Music Festival, Ensemble Correspondances performs a collection of Charpentier's divine masterpieces, the Motets for the House of Guise.

Recorded on June 13, 2017 at NEC's Jordan Hall

This concert is no longer available on-demand.


Ouverture pour le sacre d'un évêque
Salve regina
Miserere des Jésuites
Concert à 4 parties de violes
Annunciate superi
Sonata à 8
Litanies de la Vierge

Ensemble Correspondances
Sébastien Daucé, director

Hear a pre-concert interview with Sébastien Daucé:


Read the program notes for this concert.

Learn more about Ensemble Correspondances.


Brian McCreath (BM) [00:00:00] I'm Brian McCreath, I'm at Jordan Hall with Sébastien Daucé from Ensemble Correspondances. It's your North American debut here at the Boston Early Music Festival. Thanks for taking a few minutes after rehearsal to talk with me about it.

Sébastien Daucé (SD) [00:00:11] Thanks to you.

BM [00:00:13] Tell me a little bit about the group. I understand that it was formed in was it 2009? Was that right?

SD [00:00:18] Yeah, it was founded in 2009 around a team of musicians who made their studies with me at Lyon Conservatory. And this conservatory is very specialized in ancient music, ancient repertoire. And we have chosen to work especially around French baroque repertoire and especially sacred music as we will play tonight.

BM [00:00:39] And why is that the particular focus? I mean, you're from France, so there are certainly the historical legacy there. But what is about that music that really attracts you and is so magnetic for you?

SD [00:00:51] Sometimes you can't explain. I think I've listened to when I was a teenager on the radio, on broadcast, on television, also in cinema, some little excerpts of this music. And I don't know why, but it was so-- it was deeply moving to me. So, yeah, it has been so natural to go to this repertoire. And maybe, you know, we are now in the 21st century. It's not the same as in the 20th century when musician had to explain that baroque music was to rediscover. And then we played Purcell, Bach, and French music, just masterpieces, just to explain and to prove something.

Now everybody knows that the baroque repertoire is something great. And many people love this music, so we are not compelled to do everything. So it was, yeah, I think it's a chance for us to have the opportunity to choose our repertoire and to do it the best as we can and to get to live with it for years. And it's not the same as if we played Purcell one day, then Bach, then Handel. So, yeah, it's also a way to build sound of our group.

BM [00:02:02] And for this program, it's all Marc-Antoine Charpentier. And what is it about his music that really sets it apart from other composers in France of the same time?

SD [00:02:12] I think he has been very different from the others because he has not had the same career. He was not next to the court. He was working for a patron, was Marie de Guise, a great princess of this time, but he was not so involved in the court. And so she loved music, she loved art and also God. And she had in her hotel in the in the center of Paris a team of domestics. But they were also excellent musicians. And Charpentier was one of them. And he composed a lot for this family team of maybe 10 singers and seven instrumentalists.

And so he wrote not depending on the way the court wanted to have the compositions, but just depending on the team he had. So it's something very special, very different from Lully music, for instance. So, yeah, it's this kind of specialty I like in Charpentier music, but also the way he always tries to to find something new to experiment. So we have many pieces that are like it tries to do something and just to invent something new and to have something different from what everybody does at the same time.

BM [00:03:31] And that's one part of your notes for this concert that I really like. You point out that especially in the instrumental pieces, that Charpentier doesn't take English or Italian ideas and imitate. I think the way you put it was that it's personal reinvention or personal fantasy.

SD [00:03:46] Exactly.

BM [00:03:46] And so what did he do with, say, Italian music that made it his own?

SD [00:03:51] First of all, he is one of the very rare composers to have traveled out of France. Painters did that, but musicians not so often. He left France to Italy when he was something like 25. That's very strange because at this age, normally the composers already work. They have a job. And at this time we don't know anything about this travel. But it lasted five years.

So it's a very big trip, probably a lot of music. Maybe he worked with some composers. The legend is that he worked with Carissimi. But we know that's impossible. But it's sure that he heard this music and probably worked with composers of his age around the French parish, that is Saint Louis des Français. Alessandro Melani, many composers like this Melani, where maybe in this parish, maybe Charpentier learned with them.

When he's back to France, it was for this princess who doesn't ask him to compose in a certain way, but he's very free of composing. So he remembers everything he has seen in Italy, but he doesn't try to do the same, is trying to compose something very new, is sort of a mix of what he learned, what he has seen and what is so-- it's very interesting. For instance, this sonata, we are playing the first movement tonight, is the very first sonata in France. But it's not like Corelli music. Corelli is very well known everywhere in Europe. But Charpentier doesn't do the same.

He's writing for the ensemble of Guise. So two violins, two flutes, but also a viol, a gamba and a basse de violon, a theorbo, a harpsichord, and for each one we have a separated part. So it's very interesting because it's definitely not the Italian sound. It's something very French. But also it is a sonata, it's very virtuoso music. So it's, yeah, you can't explain, you can't classify this music in a file. Yeah. It's so original.

BM [00:06:01] Yeah. And the color is so distinctive. I don't think I've ever seen in my experience that particular arrangement of instruments. So it is a very special color.

SD [00:06:10] Yeah. Maybe it's something we can recognize in Charpentier music, is this sort of density, very harmonic music. And he loves the dissonances, he loves harmony. So it's not only to make an instrument sound in a virtuoso way, it's just to make it sound with very large, very rich sound with a lot of density. That makes this music very, maybe, very clever, maybe, but also very moving.

BM [00:06:38] Sébastian Daucé, thank you for a few minutes of your time and welcome to Boston.

SD [00:06:41] Thank you very much.