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"Hommages: Denoyé - Corrette d'après Vivaldi"

Judith Gauthier, soprano; Rodrigo del Pozo, hautecontre; Christophe Einhorn, tenor; Jean-Louis Georgel, baritone
La Maîtrise de Bretagne, Orchestre du Parlement de Musique
Dir: Martin Gester

rec: Sept 16, 2007, Ambronay, Abbaye
Ambronay Éditions - AMY014 (© 2007) (67'10")

Jacques DENOYÉ (?-1759): Messe à Grand Choeur et Symphonie; Michel CORRETTE (1707-1766): Motet à Grand Choeur Laudate Dominum de coelis d'après le Printemps de Vivaldi

Quoting other composers was a common phenomenon in the 17th and 18th centuries. Handel was one of the most frequent 'borrowers' of other composers, both contemporaries and compposers of earlier generations. He didn't refer to the composers or the works he borrowed from, but others did. In such cases it was usually a matter of paying homage to a colleague who the composer especially admired.

Such a case we have here: Michel Corrette used the first concerto, La Primavera, for a motet on the text of Psalm 148. Once Italian music started to influence French music life in the early decades of the 18th century, Vivaldi became one of the most popular composers. And his popularity lasted long: Corrette's motet dates from 1766. It is more than just a quotation: Vivaldi's music is considerably extended and the motet lasts almost twice as long as the original concerto. It begins with an andante for soprano solo which is quite good and promising. But then things go horribly wrong as after a short adagio of the orchestra it is joined by the choir to sing the first movement of Vivaldi's concerto. The solo passages are dialogues between the violin, playing Vivaldi's original solo part, and the soprano. Most convincing is probably the third section, based on the largo of Vivaldi's concerto, as long as the solo part is sung by the hautecontre. The text isn't entirely inappropriate: "All you mountains and hills, all you fruit trees and cedars, all you wild beasts and cattle, creeping things and birds that fly in the air".

But on the whole I find it rather difficult to take this music seriously. It would have been easier to swallow if the music by Vivaldi had been given to soloists only, when the tutti came in I couldn't help thinking of the horrible arrangements of classical music by James Last. I believe Vivaldi's instrumental music is far less singable than some other instrumental music, in particular by a choir.

The largest work is a mass by Jacques Denoyé, and this is an entirely different matter. First of all, there is no formal connection between this mass and any other music, although the influence of Jean-Philippe Rameau is clearly noticeable. For that reason one could probably argue that this piece can be called an 'hommage'. But if one listens to the motets by Rameau one notices the strong connection with his operatic music - in particular the instrumental parts of them - as well. This only underlines that in the baroque era there was no strict separation between sacred and secular music. The latter was no less written to the honour of God than sacred music. In this mass there is nothing which strikes as unnatural, unvocal or not suitable for the sacred text. That is quite different in Corrette's motet.

The quality of Denoyé's mass is remarkable. It is a shame hardly anything is known about this composer. We know that he worked for some time in Strasbourg, and that this mass dates from 1758. Stylistically it moves away from the style of the motets of the likes of Campra or De Mondonville, and it isn't really baroque music anymore. There are quite expressive episodes, like the passage about Jesus' passion and death in the Credo. Striking is also the episode about the resurrection in which the orchestra vividly depicts the last judgment. Also the Agnus Dei is set in a quite expressive manner.

The performances leave nothing to be desired. The soloists are all excellent, and so are choir and orchestra. The latter is in particular important, as the orchestral score is colourful, just like Rameaus orchestral parts in his operas. The players of Le Parlement de Musique are doing an excellent job here.

It is entirely the mass by Denoyé which makes me recommend this disc. Corrette's homage to Vivaldi is little more than a curiosity which gives some insight into the Italian's popularity in France, but has little musical value in itself. It would be great, though, if more of Denoyé would be discovered, as his mass can stand the comparison with the best sacred music of the mid-18th century in France.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Le Parlement de Musique

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