Charpentier Les Plaisirs de Versailles William ChristieMarc-Antoine Charpentier

Les Plaisirs de Versailles

Les Plaisirs de VersaillesSophie Daneman, soprano; Patricia Petibon, soprano; Monique Zanetti, soprano; Katalin Károlyi, mezzosoprano; Steve Dugardin, countertenor; François Piolino, tenor; Jean-François Gardeil, baritone, Fernand Bernadi, baritone

Airs sur les stances du Cid: Paul Agnew, tenor

Amor vince ogni cosa: Patricia Petibon, soprano; Sophie Daneman, soprano; Paul Agnew, tenor; François Piolino, tenor, Olivier Lallouette, baritone

Les Arts Florissants

William Christie, conductor

Erato, 1996

Although French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier is mainly known for the sacred works that constitute the major part of his large production (around five-hundred compositions), he measured himself also with secular works. Perhaps the most famous among them is the music for the comédie-ballet Le malade imaginaire he wrote for Molière after the end of the long partnership between the great playwright and Jean Baptiste Lully, but it is worth remembering also instrumental works as concerts and chamber sonatas and Orphée descendet aux Enfers, the first French cantata.

Les Plaisirs de Versailles: the Performers

This recording includes three minor works, each representative of one genre. The first is the operatic divertissement Les Plaisirs de Versailles, similar in genre and structure to Les Arts florissants and perhaps composed for the private entertainment of King Louis XIV. Then, there are the Airs sur les stances du Cid, an air sérieux and inspired by the popular drama written by Corneille in 1637. Finally, the programme includes a dramatic pastorale or pastoraletta, Italian in language and style, Amor vince ogni cosa, dating to 1688.

Always looking for Baroque treasures to rediscover, conductor William Christie, Les Arts Florissants and the talented soloists among whom the name of young Patricia Petibon stands out, offer an inspiring performance of Charpentier’s three little-known works. Despite the internal differences between them, this can be considered overall as refined, delightful and above all “light” music, so that it is more than justified that the title of the first work, Les Plaisirs de Versailles, has been chosen as the label for the entire recording.

Les Plaisirs de Versailles: the Performance

Les Plaisirs de Versailles is the most lively and energetic work and its wit is wonderfully expressed especially by the interaction of the two main characters, La Musique (Sophie Daneman) and La Conversation (Katalin Károlyi), with their opposite but equally lovely characters superbly embodied by the two fine sopranos. It is then the turn of tenor Paul Agnew to stand out in the next work, the Airs sur les stances du Cid, a task he accomplishes superbly thanks to his smooth voice. Finally, Amor vince ogni cosa is a carefree and bucolic work plenty of wonderful melismas, particularly enjoyable for what concerns Daneman and Petibon (hear the lovely All’armi).

The voices of the soloists, with their clear timbres and musicality, echo without difficulty the ideal, Arcadian atmosphere that was so dear to Baroque composers and listeners. Les Arts Florissants and their great conductor William Christie contribute to recreate it with consummate skill. Christie’s conduction is always bright and intense and his rendition of the three works is never far from an ideal, ethereal conception of beauty that suits so well these refined and delightful compositions. Finally, he achieves the best result for the little-known works and offers them to the listener in the most enthralling and effective way.