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Henry MADIN (1698 - 1748): "Te Deum pour les victoires de Louis XV"

Anne Magouët, Michiko Takahashi, soprano; Robert Getchell, Alban Dufourt, tenor; Alain Buet, Geoffroy Buffière, bass
Les Cris de Paris; Stradivaria
Dir: Daniel Cuiller

rec: June 27, 2015 (live), Château de Versailles (Chapelle Royale)
Alpha - 963 (© 2016) (69'09")
Liner-notes: E/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Diligam te, Domine (HM 22); Te Deum (HM 28)

Under the ancien régime France was a centralised state. Paris (and later Versailles) was the political and economic centre of the country and consequently also the centre of the arts and music. Readily it is forgotten that many composers who played a key role in musical life in Paris and Versailles came from the province, and had received their first musical education in the cathedral choirs and choir schools of towns like Marseille, Toulouse or Avignon. Some composers never made it to Paris but that doesn't mean that they didn't contribute anything interesting to French music of the late 17th and the early 18th centuries.

Henry Madin is one of the hardly known composers from the first half of the 18th century. He was born in Verdun and here he received his first musical training in the choir school of the cathedral. His first job was that of maître de musique in Meaux; here he became close to the famous composer and theorist Sébastien de Brossard. Between 1726 and 1730 he worked in Verdun again, and then moved to Tours. Between 1738 and 1741 he worked as director of the choir school at Rouen. For several years he divided his time between this job and the position of sous-maître de la Musique de la Chapelle du Roi, the title he received in 1738. In 1742 he took over the duties of educating the choirboys from the ailing André Campra.

Today Madin may be almost totally forgotten, in his time he was held in high esteem, for instance by the theorist Titon du Tillet, who called him "one of the finest motet composers of this age". Madin's oeuvre is almost exclusively of a religious nature which reflects the positions he held during his life. He wrote four polyphonic masses and about thirty so-called grands motets, works for soli, tutti and instruments. Some of the latter were performed at the Concert Spirituel from 1732 onwards.

The largest part of the present disc is devoted to his setting of the Te Deum. This text had a special place in the sacred repertoire in France. The verse "Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth" (Holy is the Lord, God of the armies, Heaven and Earth are filled with your majesty and your glory) appealed to the imagination of the monarchs, who considered themselves God's representatives on earth, ruling in his name. Settings of this text were frequently performed in honour of military victories. That was the case with the now famous Te Deum by Marc-Antoine Charpentier which was probably performed at the occasion of the victory of France at Steinkerk, on 3 August 1692. Madin's Te Deum, according to Jean-Paul Montagnier in his liner-notes "the longest setting ever composed under the Ancien Régime", was first performed on 17 November 1744 in the church of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris to commemorate the capture of Freiburg/Breisgau during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). It was repeated in December of that same year at Versailles. Two further performances are documented: in June 1745 it was sung as part of the celebrations of the fall of Tournai and in 1757 at the occasion of Louis XV's first public appearance after the assassination attempt by Robert-François Damiens.

The Te Deum is divided into a number of sections, scored for one or two solo voices and choir respectively, with an orchestra of wind, strings and bc plus timpani. The second section is for petit choeur which consists here of the sopranos from the choir. The solos are called récit but that doesn't indicate a recitative as we know it from the cantatas by Bach or Italian operas. It is the general term for a piece for solo voice. Madin opens his setting with a short instrumental prelude which shows some similarity with the opening of Charpentier's Te Deum, including dotted rhythms and an important role for the trumpet and the timpani. Then the hautecontre sings the first phrase: "We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord". Halfway the choir enters and adds "All the earth doth worship thee, the Father everlasting".

Montagnier points out an interesting aspect of this work. "[At] the triple acclamation of the Trisagion [Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus], the traditional plainchant formula - which several sous-maîtres du Roi, including Madin, used in their settings of the Te Deum - consists of six notes solmisated as ut-re-mi-fa-mi-re. It has been demonstrated that the ascending formula ut-re-mi is often associated with members of the royal family in the air de cour repertory and that the descending cell fa-mi-re contains, as an acrostic, the supplication 'Fac me regem'. Consequently, the plainchant formula ut-re-mi-fa-mi-re, given particular prominence in the third and fourth movements of Madin's motet, could easily perceived as the musical symbol of the monarch, a symbol that was also used in settings of the words 'Laudamus te' and 'Adoramus te' in the Gloria of the Ordinary XI in use at the court of Louis XV." Madin's Te Deum ends with the text "Domine salvum fac regem" (O Lord, save the King, and mercifully hear us when we call upon thee). This text was very much a fixed part of the liturgy in the royal chapel. The chapel's frescos contain an angel holding up the inscription with the opening phrase.

The Te Deum is followed by Diligam te, Domine, a setting of verses from Psalm 18 (17): "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength". It dates from 1737 and was his most frequently performed composition, posthumously called "the finest motet of the late M. Madin". It comprises six sections and opens with a récit for the soprano. It further includes a short récit for baritone and a lengthy duet for hautecontre and baritone as well as three choruses. The text includes a dramatic passage: "The earth shook and trembled: the foundations of the mountains were troubled and were move, because he was angry with them". This is effectively depicted in the music but one should not expect here the theatrical approach of someone like Handel or Italian composers of his time. Madin's setting reflects the restraint which is a feature of the French culture under the ancien régime.

The fact that Madin is rather poorly represented on disc makes this release an important one, especially considering the quality of these two motets. They receive here a pretty much ideal performance. Six excellent soloists are joined by a fine choir and a colourful instrumental ensemble. One can easily imagine that Madin's compositions were received with enthusiasm. The fact that his Te Deum was performed at official occasions at least four times is telling. The splendour which was very much part of French culture at the time, and especially at the court in Versailles, comes to the fore in this work as well as in Diligam te. Madin's oeuvre is well worth exploring. Le Concert Lorrain recorded some petits motets and Iakovos Pappas recorded two masses and some motets for two sopranos (Arion, 1998). Let us hope that more from Madin's oeuvre will appear on CD.

For the time being we should enjoy this splendid disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

Relevant links:

Robert Getchell
Les Cris de Paris

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