Marc-Antoine Charpentier  
Marc-Antoine Charpentier


Marc-Antoine Charpentier (French: [maʁk ɑ̃.twan ʃaʁ.pɑ̃.tje]; 1643 – 24 February 1704) was a French composer of the Baroque era.
Exceptionally prolific and versatile, Charpentier produced compositions of the highest quality in several genres. His mastery in writing sacred vocal music, above all, was recognized and hailed by his contemporaries.
He is not known to be related to Gustave Charpentier, the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century French opera composer.


Charpentier was born in or near Paris, the son of a master scribe who had very good connections to influential families in the Parlement of Paris. Marc-Antoine received a very good education, perhaps with the help of the Jesuits, and registered for law school in Paris when he was eighteen. He withdrew after one semester. He spent "two or three years" in Rome, probably between 1667 and 1669, and studied with Giacomo Carissimi. He is also known to have been in contact with poet-musician Charles Coypeau d'Assoucy, who was composing for the French Embassy in Rome. A legend claims that Charpentier initially traveled to Rome to study painting before he was discovered by Carissimi. This story is undocumented and possibly untrue; at any rate, although his 28 volumes of autograph manuscripts reveal considerable skill at tracing the arabesques used by professional scribes, they contain not a single drawing, not even a rudimentary sketch. Regardless, he acquired a solid knowledge of contemporary Italian musical practice and brought it back to France.

Immediately on his return to France, Charpentier probably began working as house composer to Marie de Lorraine, duchesse de Guise, who was known familiarly as "Mlle de Guise." She gave him an "apartment" in the recently renovated Hôtel de Guise – strong evidence that Charpentier was not a paid domestic who slept in a small room in the vast residence, but was instead a courtier who occupied one of the new apartments in the stable wing.
For the next seventeen years, Charpentier composed a considerable quantity of vocal works for her, among them Psalm settings, hymns, motets, a Magnificat setting, a mass and a Dies Irae for the funeral of her nephew Louis Joseph, Duke of Guise, and a succession of Italianate oratorios set to non-liturgical Latin texts. (Charpentier preferred the Latin canticum to the Italian term, oratorio). Throughout the 1670s, the bulk of these works were for trios. The usual trio was two women and a singing bass, plus two treble instruments and continuo; but when performance in the chapel of a male monastic community required male voices, he would write for an haute-contre, a tenor and a bass, plus the same instruments. Then, about 1680, Mlle de Guise increased the size of the ensemble, until it included 13 performers and a singing teacher. In the pieces written from 1684 until late 1687, the names of the Guise musicians appear as marginalia in Charpentier's manuscripts – including "Charp" beside the haute-contre line. Étienne Loulié, the senior instrumentalist who played keyboard, recorder and viole, probably was entrusted with coaching the newer instrumentalists.

Despite what is often asserted, during his seventeen years in the service of Mlle de Guise, Charpentier was not the "director" of the Guise ensemble. The director was a gentleman of Mlle de Guise's court, an amateur musician, Italophile, and Latinist named Philippe Goibaut, familiarly called Monsieur Du Bois. Owing to Mlle de Guise's love for Italian music (a passion she shared with Du Bois), and her frequent entertaining of Italians passing through Paris, there was little reason for Charpentier to conceal the Italianisms he had learned in Rome.
During his years of service to Mlle de Guise, Charpentier also composed for "Mme de Guise", Louis XIV's first cousin. It was in large part owing to Mme de Guise's protection that the Guise musicians were permitted to perform Charpentier's chamber operas in defiance of the monopoly held by Jean Baptiste Lully. Most of the operas and pastorales in French, which date from 1684 to 1687, appear to have been commissioned by Mme de Guise for performance at court entertainments during the winter season; but Mlle de Guise doubtlessly included them in the entertainments she sponsored several times a week in her palatial Parisian residence.


A recently discovered portrait, inscribed by the artist as representing Charpentier, but dating circa 1750.
By late 1687, Mlle de Guise was dying. Around that time, Charpentier entered the employ of the Jesuits. Indeed, he is not named in the princess's will of March 1688, nor in the papers of her estate, which is strong evidence that she had already rewarded her loyal servant and approved of his departure.

During his seventeen-odd years at the Hôtel de Guise, Charpentier had written almost as many pages of music for outside commissions as he had for Mlle de Guise. (He routinely copied these outside commissions in notebooks with Roman numerals.) For example, after Molière's falling out with Jean-Baptiste Lully in 1672, Charpentier had begun writing incidental music for the spoken theater of Molière. It probably was owing to pressure on Molière exerted by Mlle de Guise and by young Mme de Guise that the playwright took the commission for incidental music for Le Malade imaginaire away from Dassoucy and gave it to Charpentier. After Molière's death in 1673, Charpentier continued to write for the playwright's successors, Thomas Corneille and Jean Donneau de Visé. Play after play, he would compose pieces that demanded more musicians than the number authorized by Lully's monopoly over theatrical music. By 1685, the troop ceased flouting these restrictions. Their capitulation ended Charpentier's career as a composer for the spoken theater.

In 1679, Charpentier had been singled out to compose for Louis XIV's son, the Dauphin. Writing primarily for the prince's private chapel, he composed devotional pieces for a small ensemble composed of royal musicians: the two Pièche sisters singing with a bass named Frizon, and instruments played by the two Pièche brothers. In short, an ensemble that, with Mlle de Guise's permission, could perform works he had earlier composed for the Guises. By early 1683, when he was awarded a royal pension, Charpentier was being commissioned to write for court events such as the annual Corpus Christi procession. In April of that year, he became so ill that he had to withdraw from the competition for the sub-mastership of the royal chapel. Speculations that he withdrew because he knew he would not win seem disproved by his autograph notebooks: he wrote nothing at all from April through mid-August of that year, strong evidence that he was too ill to work.

From late 1687 to early 1698, Charpentier served as maître de musique (music master) to the Jesuits, working first for their collège of Louis-le-Grand (for which he wrote David et Jonathas and where he was still employed in April 1691) and then for the church of Saint-Louis adjacent to the order's professed house on the rue Saint-Antoine. Once he moved to Saint-Louis, Charpentier virtually ceased writing oratorios and instead primarily wrote musical settings of psalms and other liturgical texts such as the Litanies of Loreto. During his years at Saint-Louis, his works tended to be for large ensembles that included paid singers from the Royal Opera. In addition, during these years Charpentier succeeded Étienne Loulié as music teacher to Philippe, Duke of Chartres.

Charpentier was appointed maître de musique for the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris in 1698, a royal post he held until his death in 1704. One of his most famous compositions during his tenure was the Mass Assumpta Est Maria (H. 11). That this work survived suggests that it was written for another entity, an entity that was entitled to call upon the musicians of the Chapel and reward them for their efforts. Indeed, virtually none of Charpentier's compositions from 1690 to 1704 have survived, because when the maître de musique died, the royal administration routinely confiscated everything he had written for the Chapel. Charpentier died at Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, and was buried in the little walled-in cemetery just behind the choir of the chapel (the cemetery no longer exists).
In 1727, Charpentier's heirs sold his autograph manuscripts (28 folio volumes) to the Royal Library, today the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Commonly known as the Mélanges, or Meslanges, and now available as facsimiles published by Minkoff-France, these manuscripts were divided by Charpentier himself into two series of notebooks – one bearing Arabic numbers and the other roman numbers, and each notebook numbered chronologically. These manuscripts (and their watermarks) have permitted scholars not only to date his compositions but also to determine the events for which many of these works were written.

Music, style and influence

His compositions include oratorios, masses, operas, and numerous smaller pieces that are difficult to categorize. Many of his smaller works for one or two voices and instruments resemble the Italian cantata of the time, and share most features except for the name: Charpentier calls them air sérieux or air à boire if they are in French, but cantata if they are in Italian.
Not only did Charpentier compose during that “transitory period” so important to the “evolution of musical language, where the modality of the ancients and the emerging tonal harmony coexisted and mutually enriched one another” (Catherine Cessac, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, 2004 edition, p. 464), but he also was a respected theoretician. In the early 1680s he was analyzing the harmony in a polychoral mass by the Roman composer Francesco Beretta (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Ms. Réserve VM1 260, fol. 55–56). About 1691 he wrote a manual to be used for the musical training of Philippe d’Orléans, duke of Chartres; and about 1693 he expanded this manual. The two versions survive as copies in the hand of Étienne Loulié, Charpentier’s colleague, who called them Règles de Composition par Monsieur Charpentier and Augmentations tirées de l’original de Mr le duc de Chartres (Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. n.a. fr. 6355, fols. 1–16). On a blank page of the Augmentations, Loulié in addition listed some of the points that Charpentier made in a treatise that Loulié called Règles de l’accompagnement de Mr Charpentier. Three theoretical works long known to scholars exist, but did not reveal much about Charpentier's evolution as a theoretician. Then, in November 2009, a fourth treatise, this time in Charpentier’s own hand, was identified in the collection of the Lilly Library at Indiana University, Bloomington, U.S.A. Written during the final months of 1698 and numbered “XLI,” this treatise appears to have been the forty-first in a series hitherto not imagined by Charpentier scholars, a series of theoretical treatises that spans almost two decades, from the early 1680s to 1698.

Modern significance

The prelude to his Te Deum, H. 146, a rondo, is the signature tune for the European Broadcasting Union, heard in the opening credits of Eurovision events. This theme was also the intro to The Olympiad films of Bud Greenspan.

Charpentier's works

Charpentier's compositions were catalogued by Hugh Wiley Hitchcock in his Les œuvres de Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Catalogue Raisonné, (Paris: Picard, 1982); references to works are often accompanied by their H (for Hitchcock) number. The following lists show selected pieces, not his entire production in each genre.


Les amours d'Acis et Galatée, Lost, 1678?
Les arts florissants, H. 487, 1685–86
La descente d'Orphée aux enfers, H. 488; 1686–87
Le jugement de Pâris, (1690)
Philomèle, lost, 1690
Médée, H. 491; 1693

Biblical tragedies

Celse Martyr, Music lost; P. Bretonneau's libretto published in 1687.
David et Jonathas, H. 490, 1688. (Libretto by P. Bretonneau.)


Petite pastorale eglogue de bergers, H. 479; October 1676
Actéon, H. 481; 1684
Il faut rire et chanter: Dispute de Bergers, H. 484; 1685
La fête de Ruel, H. 485; 1685
La couronne de fleurs, H. 486; 1685
Le retour de printemps, Lost.
Cupido perfido dentr'al mio cor


Amor vince ogni cosa, H. 492

Incidental theater music

Les Fâcheux, 1672. Music lost (if indeed Charpentier did more than simply conduct the play a few times, as the records of the Comédie Française suggest), comedy by Molière.
La comtesse d'Escarbagnas, H. 494; 1672 (comedy by Molière.)
Le médecin malgré lui, four airs survive, date uncertain. (comedy by Molière)
L'Inconnu, music lost; 1675 ("galant play" by Donneau de Visé and Thomas Corneille)
Circé, H. 496; 1675. (tragedy with machines by Thomas Corneille; divertissements by Donneau de Visé)
Ouverture du prologue de l'Inconnu, H. 499; a reworking of the prologue d'Acis et Galathée, an opera written for M. de Riants in 1679
Andromède, H. 504; 1682 (tragedy with machines by Pierre Corneille)
Vénus et Adonis, H. 507; 1685 (a play with machines, by Donneau de Visé)


Le mariage forcé (comedy by Molière,1672)
Le malade imaginaire (comedy with machines by Molière, 1673)
Le sicilien (for the comedy by Molière reworked in 1679)


Polyeucte, H. 498 (music for a performance of Pierre Corneille's play at the Collège d'Harcourt, 1679)


Les plaisirs de Versailles, H. 480; 1682
Idylle sur le retour de la santé du roi, H. 489; 1687

Interludes (Intermèdes)

Le triomphe des dames (1676)
La pierre philosophale (1681)
Endymion (1681)
Dialogues d'Angélique et de Médor (1685)
Sonatas[edit source | editbeta]
Sonate à huit (H.548)

Sacred music
Charpentier's Psaume "Super Flumina Babylonis"
After Psalm 137; live recording (excerpt)
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Messe (H. 1)
Messe Pour Mr. Mauroy (H. 6)
Extremum Dei judicium (H. 401)
Messe de minuit pour noël (H. 9, c. 1690)
Missa assumpta est Maria (H. 11, 1698–1702)
Litanies de la vierge (H. 83, 1683–1685)
Te Deum (H. 146, c. 1690)
Dixit Dominus (H. 204)
In nativitatem Domini canticum (H. 416)
Méditations pour le Carême (H.380-389)
Noëls (3) (H. 531 c. 1680)
Noëls pour les instruments (H. 534, c. 1690)
Precatio pro filio regis (Offertory) (H. 166)
Panis quem ego dabo (Elevation) (H. 275)

Cessac, Catherine. Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Translated from the French ed. (Paris 1988) by E. Thomas Glasow. Portland (Oregon): Amadeus Press, 1995.
Cessac, Catherine, ed., Marc-Antoine Charpentier, un musicien retrouvé (Sprimont: Mardaga, 2005), a collection of pioneering works originally disseminated in the Bulletin Charpentier, 1989–2003. The bulk of the articles deal with his life and works: his family and its origins, Italy and Italianism at the Hôtel de Guise, his work for the Jesuits, the sale of his manuscripts, plus background information about specific works.
Cessac, Catherine, ed., Les Manuscrits autographes de Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Wavre: Mardaga, n.d.), papers presented at the conference held at Versailles, 2004. The articles in this volume focus primarily on what scholars can deduce from the 28 autograph volumes that contain his compositions.
Ranum, Patricia M. "A Sweet Servitude: A musician's life at the court of Mlle de Guise," Early Music, 15 (1987), pp. 347–60.
Ranum, Patricia M. "Lully Plays Deaf: Rereading the Evidence on his Privilege," in John Hajdu Heyer, ed., Lully Studies (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 15–31, which focuses on Charpentier's powerful contacts.
Ranum, Patricia M. (2004). Portraits Around Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Baltimore: Dux Femina Facti. ISBN 978-0-9660997-3-7.
Music history and theory[edit source | editbeta]
Anthony, James R. French Baroque Music: From Beaujoyeulx to Rameau. Revised and expanded edition. Portland (Oregon): Amadeus Press, 1997.
Hitchcock, H.W. Les Œuvres de Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Catalogue Raisonné. Paris: Picard, 1982.
Thomas, Downing A. Aesthetics of Opera in the Ancien Régime, 1647–1785. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Tunley, David. The Eighteenth-Century French Cantata. 2nd edition. Oxford (UK): Clarendon Press Oxford University Press, 1997.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


An engraving from the 1682 Almanach Royal thought to be Charpentier.

Virtually nothing is known about Charpentier's early life - even his date of birth is uncertain. What is generally agreed is that he studied counterpoint and choral writing under Giacomo Carissimi in Rome for a period of time, and readily embraced the Italian music of the mid-seventeenth century. As a result, his initial compositions did not find a ready place in his native France; they were performed away from fashionable circles. Some of his first commissions were from the Duchess of Guise and he remained in her service until her death in 1688, writing motets, dramatic works, and sacred material for the convents in which she had interests. These were all pieces with the unusual feature of being composed specifically for performance by female voices.When Lully moved on from his work with the French dramatists, leaving Moliere without a collaborator, Moliere approached Charpentier. Together they developed productions for his theatrical company, which in time would be known as the Comedie Franause. Charpentier created new overcures and intennedes to replace Lully's, and even after Moliere's death in 1673 continued to work with this tamed troupe.In the early 1680s he was employed by the dauphin, the King's eldest son. He wrote a grand motet to mark the death of Queen Mane-Therese, as well as a number of well-received sacred works and two large-scale dramatic works. He later became music teacher to both the Regent of France and to the Duke of Chartres. Charpentier's love for music and his ability to progress without courtly favours made him a perfect candidate for the position of Maitre dc Musique and composer to the church of St Louis, the mam Jesuit church in Paris. At this time the Jesuits were an influential force; Charpentier wrote Latin dramas for their colleges as well as a great deal of music for their services. So illustrious a position in French musical life allowed the composer to combine his early kalian influences with his interest in drama. In 1693, Medee, Charpentier's only tragedie lyrique, modelled on Lully's work, was performed, but with little success.

Early in the summer of 1698, Charpentier was appointed Maitre de Musique at Ste-Chapelle, the second most prestigious musical position in all France (the first being the directorship of the Royal Chapel at Versailles). He occupied the post until his death in 1704 and there wrote some of his most impressive music, including the Missa Assumpta est Maria. This Mass displays a vast range of expression and shows Charpentier's skill at contrasting chorus and orchestra. The Te Deum, also written at Ste-Chapelle, features a four-part choir with eight soloists, and shows Charpentier's total command of religious music combined with a rare gift for melodic writing.

Messe de minuit pour Noel  

Credo in unum Deum

"O vere, o bone Jesu"

Live Recording.  Dr. Jan Kraybill, harpsichord, Brenda Allen, cello


Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Te Deum
Musica Florea
Soprano: Barbora Sojková, Stanislava Mihalcová, Marta Fadljevičová,
Alto: Markéta Cukrová, Sylva Čmugrová,
Tenor: Václav Čížek, Čeněk Svoboda,
Bass: Jaromír Nosek, Aleš Procházka
Musica Florea, Marek Štryncl - artistic leader

Šumperk, Kostel Zvěstování Panny Marie, 1.7.2012

Marc-Antoine Charpentier - 'Messe de Minuit pour Nöel'
Colin Ainsworth
Vox Luminis, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Miserere H193, Part 1
Miserere des Jesuites

part 1

Vox Luminis

Zsuzsi Tóth, Sara Jäggi, Alice Foccroulle, Catherine Lybaert
Barnabás Hegyi, Jan Kullmann
Olivier Berten, Robert Buckland, Philippe Froeliger
Bertrand Delvaux, Lionel Meunier (artistic direction)

Dessus de viole - Kaori Uemura, Francois Joubert-Caillet
Viola da gamba - Ricardo Rodríguez Miranda
Theorbo - Simon Linné
Organ - Jorge López-Escribano

Marc-Antoine Charpentier - Messe des Morts, Litanies
Marc-Antoine Charpentier - Salve Regina pour trois chœurs H.24
Ensemble européen William Bird sous la direction de Graham O'Reilly.
Extrait du disque Le jugement dernier (Sound Art 2003).
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Magnificat à trois voix H.73
William Christie
Les Arts Florissants
Dominique Visse, contre-ténor
Michel Laplénie, ténor
Philippe Cantor, basse
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Precatio Pro Filio Regis (H. 166)
Precatio Pro Filio Regis « Deus judicium » (psaume 71) H.166 pour 3 voix, 2 Dessus & basse continue (1677)

Ensemble Pierre Robert:

Anne Magouët, dessus
Sarah Breton, bas-dessus
Edwin Crossley-Mercier, basse

Thomas Leconte, Ruth Unger, flûtes
Michelle Tellier, basse de flûte
Stéphan Dudermel, Yannis Roger, violons
Florence Bolton, basse de viole
Alexandre Salles, basson
Benjamin Perrot, théorbe

Frédéric Desenclos, orgue & direction

From album "Motets pour le Grand Dauphin", Alpha 138, 2009 Alpha

Marc-Antoine Charpentier Divertissements, Airs & Concerts
Marc-Antoine Charpentier - Les Fous divertissants: extraits
Les Fous Divertissants (H 500), intermèdes à cinq voix pour une comédie en vers de Raymond Poisson, représentée au théâtre Guénégaud, le 14 novembre 1680
I. Ouverture
II. Que tout parle à l'envy
III. Les Fous déchainés
IV. Dialogue de deux Fous amoureux
Rachel Elliott - soprano
Christoph Wittmann - haute-contre
Nicholas Hurndall Smith - ténor
John Bernays - basse
New Chamber Opera Ensemble - The Band of Instruments, Gary
Marc-Antoine Charpentier - Mors Saulis et Jonathae H.403
Uploaded on Aug 29, 2011
Cum essent congregata, 00:00
O mulier, suscita mihi in pythone, 01:41
Aether umbrosus nigro velamine, 03:53
Cumque Samuel volente Deo apparuisset, 08:27
Surge Saul et responde mihi, 09:06
Quid igitur interrogas me, 10:52
Cecidit repente Saul porrectus in terram, 12:40
Tolle quaeso, 14:31
Cumque miles invitus praecibus regis, 18:16
Quisnam es tu, 19:15
O sors! sors infelix et acerb, 21:31
Sed tu unde scis, 23:11
Doleo super te, 26:13
David autem, 30:01
Montes Gelboe nec pluvia nec ros, 30:46

In honorem Sancti Ludovici Regis Galliae canticum.

Il Seminario Musicale, Gérard Lesne.

Marc Antoine Charpentier" Suite in D minor"
Suite for strings in D minor by
Marc Antoine Charpentier
Chamber Orchestra Rouen
Jean Claude Berned, conductor
Charpentier: Le Tombeau de Marc-Antoine Charpentier | Gérard Lesne & Il Seminario Musicale
Jordi Savall - Le Concert des Nations - Charpentier: Messe Et Motets Pour La Vierge
Marc Antoine Charpentier: Messe Et Motets Pour La Vierge h400 h15 h83 h11A, Live 2007 Versailles.

Jordi Savall
Le Concert des Nations

0:01:30 Canticum in honorem Beate Virginis Mariae.
0:18:00 Stabat Mater pur des religieuses.
0:34:10 Litanies de la Vierge à 6 voix et 2 dessus de violes.
0:51:45 Missa assumpta est Maria

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Le Tombeau (2)
Marc Antoine Charpentier
at "La Chapelle Royale" of Versailles

directed by Gérard Lesne

Kaori Isshiki, soprano
Chantal Santori, soprano
Gérard Lesne, countertenor
Jean-Francois Novelli, tenor
Alain Buet, bass
Magid El Bushra, countertenor

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Le Tombeau (3)
Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 - 1704), Les Plaisirs de Versailles, Sonate à huit
Sonate à huit de Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643 - 1704), enregistrée au Château de Versailles en 2004, à l'occasion du tricentenaire de la mort de Charpentier. Interprétés par les Folies françoises et Patrick Cohen-Akenine.
Messe de Minuit
Claudine Collart - Jeanne Fort - Marie-Thérèse Cahn - Gérard Friedmann - Georges Abdoun
orgue et réalisation : Antoine Geoffroy-Dechaume
Ensemble vocal de Paris
Orchestre de la Société de Musique de Chambre de Paris
Direction André JOUVE
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER - Marche de Triomphe et air de trompette - dir. Louis-Martini (1953) VINYL
Charpentier : "Médée" (Prologue)
Médée - Tragedie lyrique en un prologue et cinq actes

Libretto : Thomas Corneille

Médée, Princess of Colchis - Lorraine Hunt
Jason, Prince of Thessaly - Mark Padmore
Créon, King of Corinth - Bernard Deletré
Créuse, Daughter of Créon - Monique Zanetti
Oronte, Prince of Argos - Jean-Marc Salzmann
Nérine, Medea's confidante - Noémi Rime
Cléone, Créuse's confidante - Isabelle Desrochers
Arcas, Jason's confidante - François Bazola

Harpsichord - Emmanuelle Haïm
Bass Viols -- Elisabeth Matiffia

Les Arts Florissants
William Christie

Recording : 3th-12th May 1994, Salle Berthier, Paris, France.

Charpentier - "Médée" (Act I)
Charpentier : "Médée" (Act II)
Charpentier : "Médée" (Act III)
Charpentier : "Médée" (Act IV)
Charpentier : "Médée" (Act V)
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