'... the oratorio performances can only give pleasure.'
Charpentier's dramatic strengths -
with ROBERT ANDERSON
Cecilia became patroness of music through a misunderstanding. Legend
had her vowing perpetual virginity while an organ played during her unwelcome
wedding. Having made Christians of her husband and his brother, she secured
martyrdom for them all and was mistakenly thought to have made her vow while
performing at the organ herself. The Latin text Charpentier set omits the
more lurid details of the martyrdom, but manages drama enough in the conversion
of the brothers, and the hounding by the tyrant Almachus of the future saint.
The brief oratorio was written by Charpentier about 1675, early in his employment
by the Duchess of Guise, the last but most musically ambitious of her line.
Charpentier shows his paces impressively enough, with appropriate wrath
when Almachus threatens Cecilia with a fiery furnace [listen
- track 1, 14:30-15:35]. Cecilia replies that the flames will
provide her only cool refreshment. Her obstinacy ensures ultimate death,
which gives Charpentier opportunity for the expressive harmonies and sighing
silences he had learnt from Carissimi [listen - track
1, 17:13-18:30]. The work involves the four main characters,
a couple of angels, narrator, and chorus of the faithful.
Copyright © 3 September 2000
Robert Anderson, London, UK
CD INFORMATION - HARMONIA MUNDI HMA 190066
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