“Sans frayeur” for Soprano and Basso Continuo by Marc-Antoine Charpentier



Two pieces by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier that I really enjoy listening to are written over a chaconne bass.

The first I discovered a long time ago—the Agnus Dei from “Mass for four choirs,” H 4, written sometime in the early 1670s.  (Listen to the movement here.)

The other came to my attention in the last few years, a vibrant yet unassuming air for soprano and basso continuo entitled Sans frayeur (“Without fear”), H 467, labeled chaconne (pictured).

The original source isn’t found in manuscript, as are many of Charpentier’s works, but in a contemporary print from the March, 1680 issue of the French gazette Mercure galant, which for many years included airs in addition to the usual content—news (gossip), reviews, poems, anecdotes. For example, between 1678 and 1700 the gazette published over 460 airs by numerous composers (Charpentier contributed twelve times).

Below, you’ll find a practical modern edition I made of Sans frayeur, based on the one in the Mercure galant. I’ve included two versions, one for high voice in the original key of A major, and the other for low voice transposed down to F major. (Listen to a performance by countertenor Gerard Lesne and Il Seminario Musicale here.)

Here’s the text in French followed by an English translation.

Sans frayeur dans ce bois, seule je suis venue.
J´y vois Tircis sans être émue
Ah! N’ai-je rien à ménager?
Qu´un jeune coeur insensible est à plaindre!
Je ne cherche point le danger,
Mais du moins, je voudrais le craindre.

Without fear I came to these woods alone.
There I saw Tircis without being moved.
Ah! Is there nothing I can do?
How a young callous heart is to be pitied!
I seek no danger,
But at least I would like to fear it.

Both versions are free to download.

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