In all, Charpentier wrote four settings of the Te Deum, though this one for eight soloists, SATB chorus, woodwind, trumpets, timpani and strings (no. 146) is deservedly the best known. The famous prelude that begins the work is often used for weddings and has also been used as the signature tune for the long-running Eurovision song contest.
The Te Deum is particularly French in style, drawing on the grand motet, and its use of instrumental forces mirrors the models of Lully and Lalande. The use of bright key of D major, described by Charpentier himself as 'joyous and martial', gives the Te Deum a celebratory feel, from its attractive opening march, through several contrasting movements, to a glorious conclusion.
Charpentier left his home in Paris in the 1660s to study with the composer Carissimi in Rome. He was well schooled in Italian compositional models of the time, which initially gave him something of an outsider status back in France. An association with the stage began with Molière's troupe, and he wrote incidental music for productions of works such as La Malade Imaginaire. By the early 1680s he was employed by the Dauphin as musical director and was later granted a pension by Louis XIV who, although frequently associated with Charpentier, never employed him. In 1698 he was made master of music at the Sainte-Chapelle, which led to him writing his greatest sacred works.
Related composers: Jean-Baptiste Lully