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Patricia's book is now available for a sharply reduced price ($35) from
Just click the following link and you can order her
Portraits Around Marc-Antoine Charpentier

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Some excerpts from reviews of Portraits
around Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Davitt Moroney, Journal of the American Musicological Society, 61 (2008), p. 656 (excerpt):

Portraits is a highly personal collection of studies by Ranum, bringing together a considerable amount of documentary data (and solid doses of speculation) about people figuring in one way or another in Charpentier's biography. These verbal portraits are all in English. The presiding concetto is defined by Ranum at the outset: "Marc-Antoine knew, or knew about, all the sitters in this imaginary portrait gallery" (p. ix). Information about sixty members of Charpentier's circle is organized into twelve groups. Included here are eighteen of his relatives (distant cousins as well as direct family), six of his friends, four of his Roman contacts (Carissimi, of course, but none of the other Italian musicians in Rome), five of his collaborators (notably Molière), twenty-one of his institutional and personal patrons (including the Jesuits, royalty, and members of the house of Guise), and a final skewer of six miscellaneous names.

The book was published privately because, as the authors says in her preface, "I could not leave my research papers to yellow in file drawers and force other scholars to retrace my steops and go down the blind alleys along which I made my frustrated way." There is a great deal of useful detail in this Nibelungen mining that will certainly be useful in the Charpentier Valhalla. It may be impossible for the moment to say when, where, and how these nuggets may turn to gold, but some of them undoubtedly will, and not necessarily just in the hands of Charpentier scholars.

Julien Dubruque in XVIIe Siècle, October 2008, pp. 744-45 (excerpt and translation into English)

This is very original work that Patricia M. Ranum, one of the best specialists in Charpentier, has done. This is not a musicological work or a classic biography, even though it is about one musician; it is, one might say, an essay in the historical sociology of music, or of creativity in general during the seventeenth century. (There are portraits, for example, of Charpentier's collaborators, Molière, Thomas Corneille and Donneau de Visé, and of their protectors, and one of Le Brun as well.) The book will therefore be of equal interest to historians and musicologists who have not specialized in the study of French music in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nor of Charpentier himself.

Why "portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier"? With rare honesty, from it's preface on, this book beings by admitting failure: we know almost nothing, and we will probably never known much about Charpentier the man. That said, the author does not completely abandon the biographical genre, since the ... conclusion is devoted to a 75-page portrait of ,.... Marc-Antoine Charpentier. ... The author is totally successful at presenting and synthesizing a mass of information accumulated during her years of research, all of it elements that, indeed, would doubtlessly not have found their way into a formal biography, and which are instead elegantly distributed into a portrait gallery. ...

On of the most interesting aspects of the work is the study of the musician's relations with his employers, his protectors, and people in power in general. ... Ranum shows admirably that the House of Guise-Lorraine, above all, and also the House of Orléans, ... did not hesitate to break the successive royal decrees [in favor of Lully's monopoly.

Patricia M. Ranum knows how to make archives talk to us ...

Shirley Thompson, in Early Music, November 2004:

"The absence of a portrait [of Charpentier], together with the paucity of specific biographical information, is the starting point for Patricia M. Ranum's book. In it she seeks to bring the composer ... to life by examining the biographies of his associates, making links wherever possible with his compositional activity. Ranum's richly drawn verbal portraits are based on her analysis of an immense amount of documentary evidence. Furthermore, the way in which she organizes this material is extremely imaginative, not least by taking the reader on a .... promenade around a fictional portrait gallery. ... Ranum certainly succeeds in revealing 'the exceedingly complex network that shaped the career of Marc-Antoine Charpentier,' a network she compares to a spider's web. .... Although this book is essential reading for all those involved in Charpentier studies, its usefulness extends much further. Apart from being a mine of information on individuals and groups, it provides innumerable insights into the cultural, social and political life of late 17th-century France and to some extent Italy. Particularly absorbing are Ranum's observations on the patron-protégé relations, above all in her analysis of Charpentier's position within the Guise household. ... Ranum's lively and groundbreaking book enables a much richer appreciation of the context in which [Charpentier's music] was composed."

Buford Norman, in Papers on French Seventeenth Century Literature, 32 (2005):

"If a literary journal publishes a review about a composer ... it is because the book is, as its title indicates, more about Charpentier's associates than about himself, a man whom, Ranum admits, she never succeeded in unveiling, in spite of an huge amount of archival research. And these associates include not only Charpentier's collaborators Molière, Dassoucy, Thomas Corneille, and Donneau de Visé, but also a model for Tartuffe (Gabriel de Roquette), the painter Le Brun, an abbess of Port-Royal (Marguerite de Harlay), and a host of fascinating characters from the royal family to lineners and scriveners, all of whom crossed the path of Charpentier and who, along with many like them, make up the 'cultural moment' in which writers and composers circulated.... A book such as this one, especially when it is put together with loving, painstaking care, is of both general and specific interest. ... Ranum has a gift for making famous and little-known characters spring to life from dusty archives, and what might at first seem a series of disjointed portraits becomes an absorbing story. ... 'Monsieur Charpentier' is fortunate to have such a champion."

Jean-Paul Montagnier, in Revue de Musicologie, 90 (2004) (translation into English):

"Patricia M. Ranum est bien connue des specialistes de Marc-Antoine Charpentier pour ses remarquables et nombreux travaux dans les divers dépôts d'archives européens, à la quête du moindre indice permettant d'éclairer la vie et l'œuvre du compositeur français. Elle se devait donc de marquer à sa manière le tricentenaire de la mort de celui qui fut parmi les grands rivaux de Lully. ... Plutôt que de rédiger une biographie de son héros, [elle] propose ici une visite guidée de onze galeries de portraits ­ de personnes ou de lieux plus ou moins directement liés au musicien ... Portraits around Marc-Antoine Charpentier n'est pas un ouvrage qui se lit de la première à la dernière page, mais plutôt un livre que l'on consulte comme un dictionnaire au gré de sa fantaisie."

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