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Joseph GUY ROPARTZ (1864-1955)
Messe de Sainte-Anne: (Entrée -Pièce d'Orgue [1'01]; Kyrie [3'24]; Gloria [4'01]; Offertoire - Invocation a César Franck [4'4]; Sanctus, Benedictus [3'16]; Elévation - Pièce d'orgue [2'50]; Sortie - Pièce d'Orgue [2'01])
Salut au Saint-Sacrement pour la fête de Saint-Louis de Gonzague: (Hic vir despiciens mundum, 2 voix égales [1'39]; Prelude - Pièce d'orgue [0'50]; Ave verum, soprano solo [2'34]; Coelesti convivio 2 voix égales [2'22]; Memorare, soprano solo [3'30]; Méditation - Pièce d'orgue [1'22]; Tantum ergo, chant grégorien [1'32]; Prière de saint Ignace 3 voix égales [2'52]; Sortie-Pièce d'orgue [2'05])
Prière en mi majeur, orgue [4'35]
Symbole des Apotres, extraite de Trois Prières pour chant et orgue, mezzo solo [2'52]
Prière pour les Trespasses, orgue [8'11]
Tantum ergo - chante par les pelerins de Saint-Anne-d'Auray, dimanche 7 aout 2005 [1'36]
Marina Venant, soprano, Caroline Gesret, mezzo
Choeur Britten/Nicole Corti
Vincent Genvrin, orgue de choeur (all accompaniment), Jean Bizot, grand orgue
rec. St-Anne-d'Auray, France, August, September 2005. DDD
HORTUS 042 [60'44]

Joseph Guy-Ropartz was a student of Dubois, Massenet and most importantly César Franck, with whom he had composition and a few organ lessons, late in the master's life. Originally from Brittany, he was the directeur of the conservatoire in Nancy, before eventually settling in Strasbourg. During this last phase of his life he composed the Messe de Sainte-Anne for female voices, a simple work, almost entirely in C major and typical of the post-First World War commemorative movement, which manifested itself also in liturgical music. Here cleverly interspersed with earlier short organ works, its elegant melancholy will remind listeners of Fauré.

The 'Salut au Saint-Sacrement' is actually made up of a group of motets for the Benediction of the Holy Sacrament; an exposition motet, a motet for the Virgin, the Pope, the Tantum Ergo and an offering of thanks, together creating a sort of concert spirituel typical before the reforms of Vatican II. Here, further organ pieces are interspersed; these miniatures were written for organ or harmonium essentially for organists unable to improvise. The recording concludes with two more substantial organ works and a live recording of the congregation and pilgrims to St Anne-d'Auray in Ropartz's native Brittany singing the Tantum ergo, a nice touch.

The singing of Nicole Corti's female 12-voice Choeur Britten is exceptional for a French choir, as is the organ playing of both Vincent Genvrin who performs the accompaniments on the Debierre orgue de choeur and Jean Bizot playing the 1874 Cavaillé-Coll grand-orgue. This instrument started out as a large two manual (with Barker machines) and later received an unenclosed Positif from Beuchet-Debierre which I don't think is used on the recording.

The elegant but very conservative music of Ropartz doesn't quite set my world on fire if I'm honest. Typically however Hortus have presented it in outstandingly artistic manner, with a very interesting booklet complementing the first-rate performances. Altogether a profoundly beautiful production, featuring an all-but forgotten musical figure.

Chris Bragg



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