Recorded at Church of the Covenant, Boston, MA, May 1991
Elektra Nonesuch 9 79265-2




Anne Azéma, soprano
Elizabeth Weigle, soprano
Richard Duguay, tenor
Dan McCabe, baritone
Arizeder Urreiztieta, bass

Robert Mealy (concertmaster), baroque violin
Katherine Sutherland, baroque violin
Harold Lieberman, baroque viola
Carol Lewis, viola da gamba
Jesse Lepkoff, flute, recorder
Kathie Roth, flute
Owen Watkins, recorder
Michael Dolbow, violone
Olav Chris Henriksen, theorbo, baroque guitar
Frances Conover Fitch, organ

assisted by
Frederick Jodry, director

Alice Dampman, Sandra Stuart, sopranos
Rob Dobson, Frederick Jodry, altos
John Delorey, Arthur Rawding, tenors
John Holyoke, bariton
Gregory Mancusi-Ungaro, bass

Special thanks to Dr. Josephine Murray

Coming Soon...

1. A minuit fut fait un réveil / Anonymous (France), 17th century
This beautiful carol, utilised by Marc-Antoine Charpentier in the Agnus Dei of his Messe de Minuit, paraphrases the entire Christmas story within the space of a few strophes. Our song originates in the seventeenth century, but this technique of story-telling, based on short, simple musical phrases repeated many times, is probably as old as language itself.

2. Noëls pour les instruments/ Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1634-1704)
As his career drew to an end, Charpentier, hoping to avoid posthumous oblivion, had hand-copied an extensive, multi-volume anthology of his own compositions; these precious manuscripts are preserved today at the Paris Bibliothèque Nationale. The same volume that gives us the Messe de Minuit also preserves a series of French christmas carols arranged for instrumental ensemble. The tunes we perform here are presented in the same order of their appearance in the Mass. Joseph est bien marié
Or nous dites, Marie
Une jeune pucelle
Vous qui désirez sans fin
Ou s'en vont ces gais bergers

3. Hodie christus natus est/ Gregorian
A Gregorian antiphon for Christmas day.

4. Nun jauchzet mit hellem Ton / Johannes Schein (1586-1630)
A number of German composers, Schein among them, created German-language imitations of the light Italian vocal forms -- villanelle, balletti, etc. -- that were the rage across Europe circa 1600. This compositon appeared with two texts -- one celebrating the amorous delights of nymphs and shepherds, the other in praise of the Christmas feast.

5. Laudate dominum/ Claudio Monteverdi (1547-1643)
Monteverdi's exuberant treatment of this psalm text, composed during his Venetian period, owes a great deal to his experience with the concerted madrigal, much in favor during the early years of the seventeenth century. The alternation of fast-moving solo passages with sonorous tuttis pays hommage to the Venetian love of contrast and varied sound colors.

6. Non recedet laus tuus/ Gregorian
A Marial text for one of the Virgin's feast days.

7. Salve Regina/ Claudio Monteverdi
Favored by many, many composers from the Middle Ages onward, this text receives on of its most evocative settings ever in the present treatment by Monteverdi. The graphically-depicted sighs of the imploring sinner bear a delicious resemblance to the those of some pining lover in the same composer's secular style; yet despite its proximity to the flesh-and-blood world of the madrigal, this motet's spirituality is intense and deeply felt.

8. The Blessed virgin's expostulation/ Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Purcell's astonishing setting -- really a mini-cantata -- of a text by Nahum Tate confronts us with the real anguish of a real mother. Like the Monteverdi Salve Regina, like many a canvas of Carravagio or Rembrandt, the power of the work resides in the tension between carnality and spirituality, between the universe of everyday experience and the supernatural.

9. Messe de minuit sur des airs de Noël/ Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Christmas, the most joyous of holidays, comes at the darkest time of year. And the theme of light growing out of night, overcoming the shadows, is crucially important to how this holiday has been thought about and celebrated throughout history. Charpentier's beloved "Messe de Minuit" is less dramatic, less theatrical than the works of Monteverdi and Purcell you have just heard -- yet it, too, is quintessentially baroque (that is, dependent on contrast for its effect) by virtue of its placement at the night hour. The composer, whose dramatic power and gift for gesture are evident in many other compositions from his pen, here eschews all subjectivity, all psychologizing, creating a mass cycle meant to evoke primal, unclouded faith. The borrowed carol tunes, well-known to his listeners (and some of them still current in the French-speaking world today) are delightfully treated in the French seventeenth century manière, by turns jaunty and tender. They speak of the French countryside, of simple belief, and of childlike trust. Only in the Credo, at the text Judicare vivos et mortuos, do we get a brief glimpse of Christ the Judge -- everywhere else in this gentle, tender work, He is a newborn infant. At the hour of midnight, we behold a pure, sweet, redemptive light. We supply the names of the borrowed carol tunes alongside the individual mass movement. Kyrie(Joseph est bien marié -- Or nous dites, Marie -- Une jeune pucelle)
Gloria (Les bourgeois de Châtre -- Ou s'en vont ces gais bergers)
Credo (Vous qui désirez sans fin -- Voici le jour -- A la venue de Noël)
Offertoire (Laissez paître vos bêtes)
Sanctus (O Dieu, que n'étois-je en vie)
Agnus Dei (A minuit fut fait un réveil)

notes by Joel Cohen Mirabeau (Vaucluse), August 1991

These notes are © by Joel Cohen

A review (en français) from: Mouton Noir , a website in Québec:

Noël est un temps de réjouissance. Il est aussi un temps de réflexion et d'intériorisation.
Depuis quelques années, la profusion sur le marché de disques de Noël de toutes sortes est incroyable. Certains sont des "classiques"; Casse-Noisette, les différents chants traditionnels, oratorios de Bach et Handel, chants russes et grégoriens.
Je vous propose un "best of" de ces musiques de Noël par un ensemble baroque très; prestigieux, le Boston Camerata. Sur ce disque, on retrouve donc des "carols", chants de Noël pour une ou plusieurs voix, des chants grégoriens, motets, madrigaux, cantates, entre autres de Purcell, Monteverdi ainsi que deux pièces; maîtresses de Marc-Antoine Charpentier avec son "Noël pour les instruments" et sa "Messe de minuit sur des airs de Noël".
Toutes les émotions se retrouvent réunies sur ce disque; de la réflexion à l'introspection en passant par des images pieuses et l'atmosphère; de ce temps de l'année. La séquence des pièces; fut judicieusement choisie et le jeu du Boston Camerata avec les instruments d'époque et ses deux ensembles vocaux font de ce disque une "obligation" pour
quiconque veut retrouver le vrai sens de la Fête de Noël.
Petit détail très; attachant; la toile de Georges de la Tour qui orne la pochette est magnifique!

Jean-François Laferté