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Vêpres aux Jésuites
Ouverture pour le sacre d'un évêque H.536 [3:20]
Dixit Dominus, Psalm 109 H.204 [10:30]
Sancti Dei per fidem H.361 [3:45]
Laudate Pueri, Psalm 112 H.203 [11:10]
Confitebor Tibi... In Concilio, Psalm 110 H.225 [15:07]
Regina Caeli H.32 [2:15]
Beatus Vir, Psalm 111 H.208 [18:14]
Serve Bone H.35 [2:07]
Nisi Dominus, Psalm 126 H.160 [9:48]
Ave Maris Stella H.67 [7:51]
Magnificat H.78 [14:53]
Domine Salvum (plainchant) [1:37]
Magali Dami, Natacha Ducret, Marie-Laure
Chabloz (soprano); Charles Daniels (counter-tenor);
Mark Tucker, Hans-Jürg Rickenbacher (tenor); Peter Harvey, Stephen Imboden (bass)
Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne; Ensemble Baroque L’Arpa Festante,
rec. Studio Desarzens, Radio Lausanne, January and June 1993.
Remastered July 2005.
VEL3088 [64:21 + 36:16]
In theory the
Jesuits were not supporters of music or were even anti-music.
Loyola believed music to be something of a distraction and
positively discouraged the establishment of choirs in Jesuit
establishments. Other early Jesuits argued against the use
of the organ. Some of their critics saw their supposed anti-musicality
as entirely appropriate to their supposed character – Jean-Le-Rond
d’Alembert (1717-1783), mathematician and collaborator of
Diderot on the famous Dictionaire raisonné des sciences,
des arts et des métiers,
observed that “The Jesuits are unable to sing – birds of
prey do not know how to sing”!
a number of important Jesuit establishments actually did
much to encourage music and were active patrons of the art.
Notably these establishments included the Collegium Germanicum
in Rome (founded in 1552), the Collegium Gregorianum in Munich
(founded in 1572), the Collegium Ferdinandeum in Graz (founded
in 1574) and colleges in Vienna, Prague, Cologne, Mainz,
Augsburg and elsewhere – all of which is discussed in Thomas
D. Culley’s Jesuits and Music (1970), which carries
the subtitle “a study of the musicians connected with the
German College in Rome during the 17th century and of their
activities in Northern Europe”. Giacomo Carissimi was director
of music at the German College in Rome from 1629 to 1674.
An extraordinarily influential teacher, his pupils (definite
or probable) included Giovanni Paolo Colonna, Christoph Bernard,
Antonio Cesti, Alessandro Scarlatti – and Marc Antoine Charpentier.
connections with the Jesuits were extensive. They were explored,
and their musical implications examined, in a fascinating
article by C. Jane Gosine and Erik Oland (‘Docere, delectare, movere:
Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jesuit spirituality’) in Early
Music (November 2004). By the end of the 1680s, Charpentier
had become maître de musique at l’Église Saint-Louis,
the most important Parisian Jesuit church. Even before this
appointment Charpentier had often written music for use in
In these years,
the church of Saint-Louis was lavishly adorned with gold
and silver, full of sculptures and paintings, the atmosphere
rich with incense; the whole sought to engage the senses,
the emotions and the intellect of the worshippers in the
service of a kind of affective spirituality, derived in part
from the Spiritual Exercises of Loyola himself, in
which the worshipper would imaginatively identify with, and
respond to, key episodes in the Christian narrative. At Saint-Louis,
music was certainly expected to play its part in stimulating
this kind of engagement. In a sense, musical performance
was part of a kind of ‘holy’ seduction, through which worshippers
might be instructed and educated. It was as part of this
strategy that popular singers from the opera were sometimes
employed as soloists at Saint-Louis – leading some to complain
of the excessive theatricality of the sacred music heard
(and seen) there.
body of church music which Charpentier wrote for Saint-Louis
can be seen to play its part in such a strategy. Indeed Gosine
and Oland see them as musical equivalents of the meditations
in the Spiritual Exercises – equivalents “in which
Charpentier’s affective treatment of the text vividly brings
to life the words being set”. Their article persuasively
suggests ways in which Charpentier’s settings were influenced
by the ideas about rhetoric which underlay contemporary Jesuit
ideas on effective preaching.
Much of this
can be vividly heard on these two reissued CDs which present
a selection of works, most of which are presumed to have
been written in the ten years (1688-1698) when Charpentier
was most closely involved in the musical life of Saint-Louis.
There is some very beautiful music to be heard, for nicely
varied forces. Regina Caeli is for two sopranos and
instrumental accompaniment; the Laudate Pueri is for
soloists, choir and orchestra; the Sancti Dei is for
unaccompanied bass. There are plenty of examples of Charpentier’s
precise attention to the verbal detail of his texts – not
least in the superb Beatus Vir. At the words Peccator
videbit et iracitur dentubus suis fremet et tabescet:
esiderium peccatorum peribit mildly dissonant harmonies
serve to give a musical emphasis to the verbal imagery in
a manner which is surprisingly powerful. Charpentier’s control
both of contrasts of dynamics and of tempo throughout this
piece (and elsewhere) is perfect demonstration of the kind
of ‘musical rhetoric’ which underlies Charpentier’s works
for the Jesuits.
These CDs come
with the imprimatur of the important Charpentier scholar
Catherine Cessac, who provides some notes (rather poorly
translated) and there is much to admire in the performances
here. None of the soloists let the side down and Corboz certainly
has a real feel for the music. Some will worry about the
presence of women’s voices, no doubt, and even in the years
since these recordings were made in 1993, ideas about performance
practice in this music have changed; but given the evident
love and respect which can be heard throughout these performances
it would be petty pedantry to worry too much about such matters.
Better to revel in the well-recorded beauty of so much of
what is to be heard here, in terms both of vivacity and limpid
grace – both heard to delightful effect in the Nisi Dominus.
and English translations are provided.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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