Marc-Antoine Charpentier & Henry Purcell


The story of Saint Caecilia sends us back to the very beginning of Christianity: she becomes at the 15th century the musicians’ patron saint. Mme de Guise – who protects Charpentier – asks him many times to compose works in honor of this figure of the Saints’ history, a « strong woman » as she appreciates them. Charpentier’s first sacred story dedicated to Caecilia (Cecilia virgo et Martyr) finds inspiration in roman music. The voices, the two orchestras and two choirs are making of this piece a true exception in 17th century France. This sacred fresque is one of the composer’s most original work, treated at first with drama that quickly transforms into jubilation.

Saint Caecilia’s cult quickly becomes popular overseas Purcell writes for her many pieces, like Charpentier. The most accomplished one – and probably the most appreciated since its creation – is Hail! Bright Cecilia!. Composed at the end of his short life, this work could be a synthesis of Purcell’s art. Relating these two composers is far from being arbitrary. The two musicians, geographically separated by a sea (no sign proves that they met) are showing troubling ressemblances: in their ability to both sing and compose, their taste for rich harmony and adroit counterpoint, their melodic inventiveness or their sens of innovation, everything seems to link these two contemporary composers.


Marc-Antoine Charpentier Caecilia, virgo et martyr, H 397
Henry Purcell Hail! Bright Cecilia!

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