“Perhaps few composers have produced as much beautiful Christmas music as Charpentier. Both oratorios recorded here are generously laid out for soloists, chorus and a sweet-toned, atmospherically nocturnal ensemble of recorders and strings, a grand motet-style line-up which Charpentier uses to create a work with clear dramatic pretensions. Thus, in addition to the ravishing choral writing of the kind at which Charpentier excelled, each oratorio has a gentle instrumental number to represent night (an archetype taken straight from the dreamy sommeils of French Baroque opera), followed by a tootly little dance-chorus to represent the 'awakening of the shepherds', and later on a perky march to send them off to Bethlehem. In this way Charpentier's faultless music brings together his own contemporary world and that of the New Testament in an utterly beguiling mixture of richness and simplicity. The Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble are superbly attuned to the music's atmosphere. Perhaps an extra ounce of vocal refinement could have been drawn from the choir, but more important is that these performances show an unfailing appreciation of style, taste and sheer beauty of sound. The result is a Christmas treat for us all.”
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