Ensemble Correspondances brings polish and esprit to Charpentier program – New York Classical Review

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For their Christmas concert on Sunday afternoon, Music Before 1800 turned instead to Marc-Antoine Charpentier, hosting an excellent performance by the French baroque group, Ensemble Correspondances.

The first half of Sunday’s concert was made up of the Antiennes “O” de l’Avent, a set of antiphons for Advent, taking their name from the exclamatory “O” that begins each prayer. In all of these Antiennes, the work from the continuo musicians was impressive, as they played with tight ensemble and perfect intonation, crafting breathing phrases in support of the singers, under the direction of Sébastien Daucé, who contributed crisp playing on the harpsichord and organ.

The latter half of Sunday’s program was Charpentier’s Pastorale sur la naissance de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, a cantata portraying the appearance of the angel to the shepherds announcing the birth of Christ.

Throughout Sunday’s concert, Ensemble Correspondances showed exceptional polish, using precise dynamics to carve out shapely phrases and energizing the music by emphasizing the interplay of competing voices. This was nowhere more evident than in the cantata’s closing scene, which contrasted the soft mourning of two shepherdesses over one of their flock with the buoyant joy of the rest of their company on first hearing the news of Christ’s birth.

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