La Chapelle Royale - Philippe Herreweghe
## 1 - 7 - Miserere H. 219
# 8 - Pour la secondc fois que le Saint Sacrement vient au mesme reposoir H. 372
# 9 - Pour le Saint Sacrcmcnt au reposoir H. 346
## 10-13 - Motet pour l'Oftertoire de la Messe rouge, H 434 (ou Motet pour une longue offrande)
========= fragment from the cover ==========
THE TITLE, MOTET POUR L'OFFERTOIRE DE LA MESSE ROUGE WHICH Charpentier later changed to Motet pour une longuc offrande (most probably because of another performance of the work), refers, to the annual ceremonies that accompanied the reopening of the Parliament of Pans in mid-November. On this occasion a Mass was celebrated which was attended by the magistrates dressed in their scarlet robes, hence the name oj the Mass.
This was one of the last works composed by Cbarpentier while he was maitre de musique des enfants at the Sainte Chapelle, near the Parliament. He had been appointed to this important post on 8 June 1698, the heal dignitaries having considered "that he composes and masters music to perfection". He died at seven o'clock in the morning of 24 February' 1704, thus ending a career of over thirty years, a life that was richly productive (over 550 compositions), but meagrely documented, filled with tokens of admiration (Donne au de Vise, Sebastien de Bros sard), but also with harsh criticism of his Italianism (Lecerf de la Vie-ville).
Kept away from the Court of Louis XIV partly by Lully's jealousy, but partly also by bad luck (he bad, in fact, presented himself tn 1683 for the competition for the Chapelle Royale, but he was ill and could not complete the examinations), Charpentier nevertheless succeeded in having his music heard in important places in Pans, the Sainte Chapelle marking a kind of consecration for him.
From 1680 "extraordinary* musical forces were called upon for important occasions, with singers and instrumentalists com ing from outside to join the Sainte Chapelle choir, llns is what probably occurred for the performance of the Motet pour l'offertoire de la Messe Rouge which calls for five soloists, a large four-part choir, ttvoflutes, two oboes, a bassoon, a string ensemble, and organ.
The extraordinary beauty of this work shows us a composer at the peak of his genius and in the full maturity of his art. Not only is the writing extremely varied (variety was the supreme quality in music for Charpentier, as he stressed several times in his Regles de composition), but at the same time it obeys a no less imperious concern for form: large instrumental passages, sections that are no longer linked together as in the first motets, hut are distinctly separated, each with its own tonal climate. What is to he admired most ? Tin firstgreat chorus with its entrance in rapid semiquaver runs ("Pluet superpeccatores laqueos ignis*) then its solid homorhythm, or the powerful accents on the "non" ("non confundar in aeternurn")t the lightness of the instrumentation in the "simphonies" when the flutes and the violins are in dialogue, or the highly developed last part when soloists (in trio), small chorus and large chorus become the echo of a perpetually varied and faultless inspiration ?
The other three works are earlier than the Motet pour l'offertoire de la Messe Rouge; they were most probably composed for the Jesuit Church on Rue Saint Antoine, a place of great prestige in Paris. The ceremonies there were very sumptuous, especially that of thf Corpus Christi procession which was organized like a veritable theatrical spectacle. Street-altars, magnificently adorned, garlanded with flowers and illuminated, were placed along the route of the procession, and each station of the Holy Sacrament was punctuated by a prayer Jrom the liturgy or by a motet in music, as indicated fry Charpentier in the titles of his two pieces, Pour le St. Sacrement au reposoir and Pour la seconde fois que le St. Sacrement vient au mesme reposoir ("reposoir": a street-altar for the monstrance during Corpus Christi processions). This was the moment when the emotional outpouring was at its most intense, and the adoration of the Divinity was given its most tender and sweetest accents, like in the first part of H.372 when, after the gentle invocation, "O Deus O salvator noster", the text, constructed entirely on an accumulation oj adoring adjectives, is treated in a vertical and syllabic manner so that the listener's attention does not stray away from the emotive power of the words themselves.
The piece entitled Pour le St. Sacrement au reposoir is bathed in a mood of deep meditation which manifests itself from the counter-tenor's opening phrase - the melody, both restrained and soaring upwards into the higher register,, reflects the movement and the expectation of a gaze turned towards God - and which continues m the light-filled suspensions on "O" ("O nos felices filii O nos beati").
Charpentier wrote no fewer than four settings of Psalm 50 (51), "Miserere mei Deus": for the Dauphin's musicians (H. 157), for the nuns of the Abbaye aux Bois (H. 173), Jor Made-moiselle de Guise (H. 193 - the same composition was later revised for the Jesuits), and finally the present Miserere a 4 voix et 4 instr., also written for the Jesuits. There is no cause for surprise at the number of settings of the same text: it was a habit of Charpentier's (10
Magnificats, 6 De Profundis, 5 Salve Reginas, etc.). What is astonishing is the composer's genius for renewing his inspiration each time according to order.
All the Baroque art oj contrast is present in the Miserere where the writing constantly varies from one -verse to another in a manner which one could almost qualify as kaleidoscopic. This desire for an extremely high degree of diversify can befound at all levels of the composition. We can point out only some of the aspects: contrast between the minor (the work is in D minor, a key Charpentier calls "Grave et Devot") and the major modes ("Asperges me..."), between "soft" ("Dcomine labia mea aperis") and "loud" ("et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam"), between vertical harmonic writing and the treatment in imitation with occasional very beautiful vocalises ("exultabunt", "exultabit", "aedificentur"), between the jubilation of "et exultabunt ossa humiliata" and the statism of "averte faciem tuam a peccatis mets"...
In these four works we have an example of Charpentier's art at its most sublime. A master of the large motet form (as he was of other forms, too), he is never merely decorative like some of his contemporaries. His music always obeys the demands of an extreme sensitivity allied with a profound and genuine faith. That is why we are still so deeply moved by it today, and it proves that the century of Louis XIV, even without its trumpets and kettledrums, was really a great century to have left us treasures of this kind.