Te Deum (Charpentier)
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Marc-Antoine Charpentier composed his grand polyphonic motet Te Deum (H. 146) in D major probably between 1688 and 1698, during his stay at the Jesuit Church of Saint-Louis in Paris, where he held the position of musical director. The work is written for the group of soloists, choir, and instrumental accompaniment.
Charpentier authored six Te Deum settings, although only four of them have survived. It is thought that the composition have been performed to mark the victory celebrations and the Battle of Steinkirk in August, 1692.
The composition consists of the following parts:
- Prelude (Marche en rondeau)
- Te Deum laudamus (bass solo)
- Te aeternum Patrem (chorus and SSAT solo)
- Pleni sunt caeli et terra (chorus)
- Te per orbem terrarum (trio, ATB)
- Tu devicto mortis aculeo (chorus, bass solo)
- Te ergo quaesumus (soprano solo)
- Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis (chorus)
- Dignare, Domine (duo, SB)
- Fiat misericordia tua (trio, SSB)
- In te, Domine, speravi (chorus with ATB trio)
Charpentier considered the key D-major as "bright and very warlike". The instrumental introduction, composed in the form of rondo, precedes the first verset, led by the bass soloist. The choir and other soloists join gradually. Charpentier apparently intended to orchestrate the work according to the traditional exegesis of the Latin text. The choir thus predominates in the first part (verset 1-10, praise of God, heavenly dimension), and individual soloists in the second part (verset 10-20, Christological section, secular dimension). In subsequent versets, nos. 21-25, both soloists and choir alternate, and the final verset is a large-scale fugue written for choir, with a short trio for soloists in the middle.
The composition is scored for five soloists (SSATB) and choir (SATB), accompanied with an instrumental ensemble of 2 nonspecified recorders or flutes, 2 oboes, 2 trumpets (second trumpet in unison with timpani), timpani, 2 violins, 2 violas ("haute-contres de violon" and "tailles de violon") and basso continuo.
Typical continuo instruments used in french baroque music are "basses de violon" (a cello-like, large scaled instrument often replaced by the cello in modern performances), organ, harpsichord, theorbo, bass viol and bassoon or "basse de cromorne" (a kind of bass oboe). Furthermore, serpents were frequently used to double the bass line of vocal choirs in 17th century France.
Since the instrumental ensemble is mostly constricted to 4 parts only (wind instruments and violins playing the same line), it is very easy to reduce the instrumentation if needed.
In popular culture
After the work's rediscovery in 1953 by the musicologist Carl de Nys, the instrumental prelude, Marche en rondeau, was chosen in 1954 as the theme music preceding the broadcasts of the European Broadcasting Union. After over sixty years of use notably before EBU programs such as the popular Eurovision Song Contest and Jeux Sans Frontieres, the prelude, as arranged and directed by Louis Martini and Guy Lambert, has become Charpentier's best-known work.
The prelude was used for the introduction of the Olympiad films by Bud Greenspan.
The prelude was briefly played on King Richard's coronation in the 1995 film Richard III.
- Charpentier, Marc Antoine; Schauerte-Maubouet, Helga (preface); Taylor, Steve (transl.) (2004). Te Deum (H. 146). Vocal score. Kassel: Bärenreiter Verlag. pp. V–VIII. ISMN M-0006-52543-0
- Fornäs, Johan (2011). Signifying europe. Bristol: Intellect Press. p. 187. ISBN 9781841505213.
- Cessac, textes réunis par Catherine (2007). Les manuscrits autographes de Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Wavre: Mardaga. p. 6. ISBN 9782870099414.