Marc-Antoine Charpentier

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Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643  – 24 February 1704) was a French composer of the Baroque era.

He was a prolific and versatile composer, producing music of the highest quality in several genres. His mastery in the composition of sacred vocal music was recognized and acknowledged by his contemporaries.



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.

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