O Natal de Charpentier
What would it be like to celebrate Christmas in the Royal Chapel of Louis XIV or in one of the cathedrals of 17th century France? This season was celebrated with great musical abundance, with liturgical works in Latin, as well as ancient popular songs in French – the famous Noëls. Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed many works for this season, including the O Antiphons, destined to the novena of Advent that prepared the arrival of Christmas, and several oratories that told the story of the Nativity, interspersing the biblical story with devotional texts and dedicated to each day of the festivity, a little like Bach would do years later in his Christmas Oratorio. In these works, Charpentier reveals a mystical look, particularly sensitive to the supernatural mystery of the Incarnation, announced by the prophets and sung by the angels, but also attentive to the fragile humanity of the Son of God, born in a cold winter night, in poverty. A more pleasant and popular vision emerges in his imaginative instrumental arrangements of traditional Noëls, sung by children during this season, both in the snow-covered streets and in the marble galleries of the most luxurious churches, these days lined with silk, velvet and gold.
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