«Daucé et son ensemble mettent en lumière le génie de Du Mont»

“Ce nouvel enregistrement de Du Mont est avec certitude un ajout de qualité à la discographie des trésors oubliés de musique française de l’ensemble. Un enregistrement qui vaut le détour. Daucé et son ensemble mettent en lumière le génie de Du Mont.”


O Mysterium: Motets & Élévations pour la Chapelle de Louis XIV
Ensemble Correspondances
Sébastien Daucé, Direction
Harmonia Mundi HMC902241, 71:18

Born in 1610 near Liege, in today’s Belgium, Du Mont arrived in Paris by at least 1643 and quickly established himself as an organist and harpsichordist. He published his Cantica Sacra in 1652 which was considered the per-eminent modern collection of religious music. His initial royal connections were first as musician for Louis’ brother Philippe, called Monsieur at court and the young Queen Marie-Thérèse, after 1660.

Du Mont was the leading sacred composer in France for 20 years at the outset of Louis XIV’s reign.

Many of his works from this period display energy and youthful enthusiasm, the freshness of the new king’s court, even though Du Mont was in his fifties and sixties by then. Only proving that true artistic genius can always be verdant and flourishing, no matter what stage of life the artist is at.

From 1663-1683 he along with the now forgotten genius Abbé Pierre Robert, shared the musical direction (sous-maîtres) of the Chapelle Royale. Louis XIV’s glory years are usually considered the Versailles period, but these two composers were both at the end of their careers when Louis moved the capital permanently to the country chateau in 1683.

Du Mont in many ways is the one of the progenitors of the French royal sacred music style that lasted till the Revolution more than a century later. Musicologist Philippe Beaussant writing on Du Mont “…is remarkable in the union he managed to achieve between tradition and novelty, retaining the best of what had come down to him from the great polyphonic tradition of the Chapelle Royale. On the other hand, even if he was not the first one to write a recitative motet with basso continuo, he did invest the genre, newly arrived in France, with an expressive quality which made him a precursor.”

If Du Mont’s music has been overlooked in France, in North America he has no profile at all. Philippe Herreweghe recorded a disc of his works in 1981 for Harmonia Mundi (HMA1951077) that was very beautiful and a historical realization of the scores for its time. It included the Memorare and Super flumina Babylonis, the only two major works (both Grand Motets à deux choeurs), along with his Magnificat that have been able to gain somewhat of a profile or reputation in our time. These three works are rightly considered masterpieces. Olivier Schneebeli (Veritas 1994), Christophe Rousset (Veritas 1994), Frédéric Desenclos (Alpha 2002 & 2004) have also recorded CDs of Du Mont’s works at the beginning of their careers, but sadly this composer has never caught on.

The secular age we live in also has something to do with the eclipse of Du Mont’s oeuvre. Only 2% of modern Frenchmen attend Catholic liturgies today. That said two of Du Mont’s five composed Masses are still sung in a Paris church and have never left the repertoire list, except when all the churches were closed for ten years during the Revolution. Also the plethora of sacred masterpieces from this period in France. Charpentier, Lully, Delalande, Campra and F. Couperin has garnered the lions share of attention in the French religious music field today. But Du Mont and Robert (whose works are very difficult to perform) have never really broken free from the library shelves, into our modern early music culture.

The two profound revelations of this new CD are the numerous Élévations (to be sung after the transubstantiation of the mass) and the premiere recording of the almost eleven minute Grand Motet, O dulcissima, a majestic work dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Symphonie introduction of this piece dances along in a joyous manner mirroring the opening line “O most sweet and forever blessed…”, the text after Louis-Isaac Lemaistre de Sacy’s La Sainte Bible, a paraphrase of the Cantique des cantiques (Song of Songs). The Élévations have never been recorded and reveal an intimate and deeply spiritual reflection on the Blessed Sacrament. This musical part of the mass consists of small vocal forces and few instruments supporting them (violins, organ, lute, therobo) as opposed to the Grand Motet played at each messe royale, that reflects the majesty of the king and utilizes all the choral and instrumental forces available.

Another stand out on the disc is the only instrumental piece, the Allemanda Gravis. The group recorded it earlier on the L’Archange & Le Lys recording of Boesset’s compositions. It is taken from the Cantica Sacra, which cemented his reputation in Paris as one of the leading musical artists. This work arranged for solo organ is possibly the best known of the composers works today with keyboardists.

Once again Sébastien Daucé and his group has produced a highly polished offering that focuses on a neglected composer of the French 17th century. Their earlier recordings of Antoine Boesset 1587-1643 (ZigZag ZZ110801, 2011) and Étienne Moulinié 1599-1676 (Harmonia Mundi HMC902194, 2013) opened doors to magnificent and lost repertoire. To quote Thomas Leconte, CMBV musicologist, “In spite of the increasing efforts devoted to research and discovery, French sacred music of the first half of the 17th century is still little-known to today’s audiences and struggles to find a place it deserves. Yet this is an endlessly rich repertory which reveals, to those who wish to immerse themselves in it, genuine treasures of the musical patrimony.”

This new recording of Du Mont is certainly an amazing addition to their stellar series on this forgotten part of French musical heritage. One well worth the trouble to seek out and acquire. Daucé and his group have brought the art of Du Mont forward, to our attention, shining a light on his limpid counterpoint, and his energized, joyous and deeply interior sacred art.

Paul-James DWYER
Copyright © June, 2016
Toronto Early Music News

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