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Eustache DU CAURROY (1549-1609)
Les Meslanges (1610)
Psaume 129 [8:50]
Chanson (‘Heureux le siècle premier’) [3:39]
Chanson spirituelle (‘Susanne un jour’) [6:26]
Cantique spirituel (‘Quand au dernier sommeil’) [5:59]
Chanson (‘D’une mielleuse voix’) [4:40]
Psaume 136 (’Le long des eaux’) [12:36]
Psaume 25 (‘Juge ma cause’) [3:17]
Chanson (‘Pour vous aymer’) [2:36]
Chanson (‘Le juste que jugea’) [4:21]
Chanson (‘Puis que le ciel’) [4:19]
Noël (‘En cette nuit’) [2:27]
Noël (‘Un enfant du ceil’) [2:37]
Psaume 5 (‘Preste l’oreille à ma complainte’) [7:53]
Doulce Mémoire: Véronique Bourin (soprano), Marcus Pontus (alto), Hugh Primard (tenor), Lucien Kandel (tenor), Guillaume Olry (baritone), Philippe Roche (bass), Judith Pacquier (cornett, flute), Elsa Frank, Jérémie Papasergio, Denis Raisin Dadre (flute, dulcian), Florence Bolton, Luc Gaugier (viola da gamba). Directed by Denis Raisin Dadre
rec. October 2004, Abbaye de Valloires, Picardy, France
NAIVE E8900 [69:10]


Eustache du Caurroy first entered the service of the French kings as a singer, but soon established a reputation as a composer. He served three monarchs – Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV – holding positions as vice-maître de la chapelle royale, compositeur de la chapelle et de la chambre and surintendant de la musique. His work brought him many rewards, including a large estate in Picardy – so that there is a certain aptness in the fact that this CD was recorded in Picardy, in connection with the Festival des Cathédrales de Picardie.

Denis Raisin Dadre and his ensemble Doulce Mémoire have already rendered Du Caurroy considerable service in the form of their excellent recording of his ‘Missa pro Defunctis’ – used at the funeral of every French monarch until the Revolution – on their CD Requiem des Rois de France. That disc was much admired and garlanded with prizes. The Mass and some of Du Caurroy’s instrumental fantasies are nowadays the best known of the composer’s works.

Now Doulce Mémoire have turned their attention to Du Caurroy’s Meslanges. This miscellaneous - hence the title - collection was published posthumously in 1610, under the supervision of the composer’s nephew. It contains 10 Psalms, 36 Chansons and 15 Noëls, and a selection from this source is here very beautifully performed.

Du Caurroy was, on the whole, a conservative musician rather than a great innovator. In his contribution to the booklet notes, Denis Raisin Dadre sees the Meslanges as “the final testimony of an already bygone era” and as “the final legacy of the renaissance”. Du Caurroy’s roots are in the Franco-Flemish tradition of choral polyphony. In the settings of French paraphrases from the Psalms – to which the performers have justifiably given a degree of disproportionate prominence on this CD – he writes music of sombre gravity and exquisite, subtle beauty. In the best of them - such as ‘Le long des eaux’, a paraphrase of verses from Psalm 136 by Didier Lupi – he achieves a memorable and rare expressiveness. His secular song settings, on the other hand, sometimes seem a little too solemn for their texts. One gets the sense that Du Caurroy did not have much time for musical small-talk, or for texts that he perhaps regarded as trivial. The two Noëls which Raisin and Doulce Mémoire have chosen to record are very striking, far more complex than was then usual for pieces in this genre and seeming to anticipate the Noëls of Charpentier. Here, if anywhere, is a point at which Du Caurroy’s music seems to look forward, stylistically speaking.

Raisin and Doulce Mémoire are sensitive and flexible in the deployment of their vocal and instrumental resources, so that the effects – as we move from purely vocal to purely instrumental and back – are constantly varied. Much well informed historical imagination underpins these performances, as well as thoroughly assured vocal and instrumental techniques. The results are invigorating and uplifting. Without ever being inappropriately gaudy, the musical colours are rich and beguiling, though never at the cost of any loosening of a firm grasp on the complex structures. The performances seem exemplary.

Full texts - and English translations – are provided. This thoroughly recommendable CD opens up a relatively little-known musical territory and communicates the joy of discovery.

Glyn Pursglove




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