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Étienne MOULINIÉ (1599 - 1676): "Meslanges pour la Chapelle d'un Prince"

Ensemble Correspondances
Dir: Sébastien Daucé

rec: Feb 2014, Lyon, Temple Lanterne
Harmonia mundi - HMC 902194 (© 2013) (66'10")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Antoine BOËSSET (1586-1643): Jesu nostra redemptio à 4 & à 5; Popule meus - Pie Jesu; Louis CONSTANTIN (c1585-1657): La Pacifique; François DE CHANCY (c1600-1656): Allemande in C; Allemande in G; Étienne MOULINIÉ Cantate Domino à 5; Caro mea vere est cibus à 5; Dum esset rex à 5; Ecce video à 5; Ego flos campi à 5; Flores apparuerunt; Lauda Sion salvatorem à 5; Litanies de la Vierge à 5; Magi videntes stellam à 5; Ne reminiscaris Domine à 5; O bone Jesu à 5; O dulce nomen à 5; O salutaris hostia à 5; Veni sponsa mea à 5

Caroline Dangin-Bardot, Caroline Weynants, Marie-Frédérique Girod, dessus; Lucile Richardot, Marie Pouchelon, bas-dessus; Stephen Collardelle, haute-contre; Davy Cornillot, Randol Rodriguez, taille; Etienne Bazola, Louis-Pierre Patron, basse-taille; Renaud Br ès, Nicolas Brooymans, basse
Lucile Perret, Matthieu Bertaud, recorder; Myriam Rignol, Pau Marcos, treble viol; Etienne Floutier, tenor viol; Laurent Dublanchet, Mathilde Vialle [bc], bass viol; Diego Salamanca, lute; Thibaut Roussel, theorbo; Sébastien Daucé, harpsichord, organ

The American-born harpsichordist and conductor William Christie has become best-known for his exploration of French repertoire of the 17th and early 18th centuries. He played a major role in the rediscovery of the oeuvre of Marc-Antoine Charpentier. He was also the one who, with his ensemble Les Arts Florissants, put the oeuvre of Etienne Moulinié on the map. In 1980 Harmonia mundi released a disc with the Cantique de Moyse, together with some other sacred works and a couple of secular pieces. Since then little has happened: only some of Moulinié's airs de cour have been recorded (for instance by Poème Harmonique; Alpha, 2000) and the Ensemble Sagittarius recorded his Missa pro defunctis (Erato, 1992). It is especially the sacred part of his oeuvre which is seriously neglected, and that makes the release of the present disc particularly important.

Etienne Moulinié started his career as a choirboy in Norbonne Cathedral. In his early twenties he came to Paris where his elder brother Antoine worked as a singer in the King's chamber. He helped Etienne to make a career as a musician, and in 1628 the latter became director of music to the King's younger brother, Duke Gaston de Orléans. He held this post until his employer's death in 1660. He became known for his airs de cour; he dedicated two of his first collections to King Louis XIII. In the service to Gaston he also composed ballets, a genre which his employer greatly appreciated, and more airs de cour, including the more popular kind, airs à boire. In later years the Duke decided to lead a more spiritual life with his second wife. This is also the time Moulinié composed the majority of his sacred works, the largest part of which was included in the collection Meslanges de sujets chrestiens, cantiques, litanies et motets, printed in 1658.

The collection opens with the Litanies de la Vierge for five voices and bc, which is dedicated to Gaston's wife, Marguerite de Lorraine who was also the dedicatee of the whole collection. It includes 36 pieces, 34 of which on a Latin text. The choice of texts seems not to be inspired by their liturgical use as Moulinié often selects verses from larger liturgical pieces. Some pieces are connected to a specific person, such as Marguerite - apart from the Litanies also a motet for her name-day, the feast of St Margaret - and Moulinié himself: Ecce video is a motet for St Etienne, the composer's patron saint. Some motets are written for feasts of the liturgical calender, such as Magi videntes stellam which is for Epiphany. Two motets are for the Blessed Sacrament (Lauda Sion salvatorem, Caro mea vere est cibus, O salutaris hostia) and a notable number of pieces are settings of texts from the Song of Songs. One of these is Veni sponsa mea, a beautiful piece which Christie also recorded in 1980. The opening verse: "Come, my spouse, come from Lebanon, come and you shall be crowned" is repeated after every section as a refrain.

In his liner-notes Thomas Leconte refers to comments by the composer that he took some 'liberties', especially in regard to harmony. Little of that is notable here, but that is certainly due to the choice of repertoire. One can hardly expect daring harmonies, let alone dissonances, in motets on texts from the Song of Songs. In these pieces Moulinié shows his ability to translate the typical language and images of these texts into music. The motet Flores apparuerunt which closes the programme is a good example, in particular the way it ends. That is perfectly realised by the ensemble.

It is indicative of the way this programme is performed. The perfect intonation helps to bring across the content of these compositions and the way Moulinié has set them. There is a great amount of intensity and expression in these performances. Impressive is certainly the way one of the darker pieces in the programme is performed, Popule meus - Pie Jesu by Antoine Boësset, another composer famous for his airs de cour. The authenticity of the motets recorded here is not established. Boësset was in the service of Louis XIII and sometimes participated in performances at Gaston's court.

He was not the only one. The musical establishment of Gaston was extended at certain occasions with external forces. We know pretty well how large the fixed ensemble was which Moulinié had at his disposal. At first he had 10 singers, two lutenists and a gambist, but around 1650 the number of singers was reduced. It is documented that in 1656 more than 20 adult male and four female singers were involved in a performance; a number of them must have come from outside the chapel. Here we hear eleven singers, with an additional haute-contre in five pieces. They build a very coherent group which produces a transparent sound which also results in the text being clearly audible.

This is an outstanding production in every respect: the choice of repertoire, the performance, the recording and the liner-notes. One can only hope that Moulinié's oeuvre will be further explored. This disc is a very convincing argument for the quality of his compositions.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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