Messe à 4 coeurs Versailels

Charpentier’s Pilgrimage to Italy


The few years he spent in Italy in his youth left a lasting impression on Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s sensitivity. In the Rome of 1665, one could hear music that was demonstrative, colorful and profound. For more than a century, Italian musicians had been happily cultivating the art of polychorality: several choirs, singers and/or instruments, interacting with each other, generally spread over several spaces. In France, examples of polychorality are very rare. Charpentier adds to this French exception by composing a sixteen-part mass in which he uses all the possible combinations offered by this staff. He adds to it, a rarity at the time, two diagrams explaining the possible options of spatialization. Was it ever played during his lifetime? If so, we do not know today in what exceptional setting this mass would have been performed.

In Charpentier’s numerous autograph and commentary manuscripts we find another polychoral mass, this time Italian – by a certain Francesco Berretta – and which for a long time was mistakenly believed to be the starting point of Charpentier’s inspiration to compose his own mass.

Starting with these two masses, on which many mysteries hover, this program retraces Charpentier’s journey from Paris to Rome: how did he arrive in Rome, through which cities did he pass? From Cremona, where Tarquinio Merula, heir of the great Renaissance style, officiates, to Venice, where he meets Cavalli, the most famous Italian composer of the time, the young composer must have rubbed shoulders with Cazzati, one of the great masters of Bologna at the time.After a few years of musical immersion in the Eternal City, Charpentier took the road back to Paris: would he not also have passed through Ferrara, where Giovanni Legrenzi was master of the chapel, and whose music surprisingly circulated shortly afterwards in Paris ? Back in Paris in 1669, one can imagine Charpentier’s pen remembering the pomp and grandeur of this music to compose his own mass for four choirs.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier Sub tuum praesidium

Tarquinio Merula Credidi

BOLOGNA | 4 ottobre a San Petronio
Maurizio Cazzati Motet pour San Petronio

Orazio Tarditi Iste confessor

Francesco Cavalli Sonate à 12 & Magnificat

Francesco Beretta Messe à 4 chœurs
Orazio Benevoli Crucifixus
Cristofaro Caresana Sonate à 8

Giovanni Legrenzi Dies Ira, Oro suplex & Pie Jesu
Marc-Antoine Charpentier Messe à 4 chœurs