musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Jacques DUPONCHEL (c1630 - 1685): "Vêpres pour Saint François d'Assise, Rome 1665"

Harmonia Sacra
Dir: Yannick Lemaire

rec: Nov 23 - 26, 2021, Mons (B), Couvent des Soeurs Noires (chapel)
Musica Ficta - MF8035 (© 2022) (63'13")
Liner-notes: E/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

[in order of appearance] Giovanni Battista FASOLO (c1598-after 1664): Ricercata V [1]; Jacques DUPONCHEL: [responsory] Deus in adiutorium meum intende [2]; [antiphon] Franciscus vir catholicus [4]; Dixit Dominus; JULIAN VON SPEYER (?-c1250): [antiphon] Coepit sub Innocentio; Jacques DUPONCHEL: Confitebor tibi Domine [2]; JULIAN VON SPEYER: [antiphon] Hunc sanctus praelegerat; Jacques DUPONCHEL: Beatus vir [2]; Giovanni Battista FASOLO: Brevis modulatio loco Antiphonae [1]; Jacques DUPONCHEL: Laudate pueri [2]; JULIAN VON SPEYER: [antiphon] Hic creaturis imperat; Jacques DUPONCHEL: Laudate Dominum omnes gentes [2]; [capitulum] Beatus vir qui inventus [4]; Giovanni Battista FASOLO: Himnus in festo Sancti Patris mei Francisci [1]; Jacques DUPONCHEL: Magnificat [2]; Giovanni Battista FASOLO: Post Magnificat loco Antiphonae brevis modulatio [1]; Francesco FOGGIA (1604-1688): [antiphon] Salve Regina [3]

Sources: [1] Giovanni Battista Fasolo, Annuale che contiene tutto quello, che deve far un organista per rispondere al choro tutto l’anno, op. 8, 1645; [2] Jacques Duponchel, Psalmi vespertini una cum litaniis Beatae Mariae Virginis, op. 1, 1665; [3] Francesco Foggia, Psalmodia vespertina, liber 2, op. 13, 1667; [4] Jacques Duponchel, Sacrae cantiones una cum litanis Beatae Mariae Virginis, op. 2, 1671

Caroline Arnaud, Dagmar Saskova, cantus; Damien Ferrante, Gabriel Jublin, altus; Guillaume Gutierrez, Olivier Fichet, tenor; Renaud Delaigue, Emmanuel Vistory, bassus; Louise Bouedo, viola da gamba, violone; Diego Salamanca, theorbo; Loris Barrucand, organ

Francis of Assisi is undoubtedly one of the best-known and most famous saints. He is also the founder of an order, which with time was divided into three orders, among which the Order of Friars Minor, which is only open to men. This is the order which Jacques Duponchel, to whom the disc under review is devoted, joined. On 14 December 1652 he was admitted to the subdiaconate of this order, and that is the first time his existence is documented. We know nothing about his life prior to that event. It is not known when he was born; it was probably in the early 1630s. There can be no doubt that he was from Douai, as he himself wrote at the end of the dedicatory epistle of his Psalmi Vespertini of 1665. On the title-page of his Sacrae Cantiones (1671) he referred to himself as "from Douai in Flanders".

Duponchel spent most of his time in Italy. Before that he was in Bonn and in Brussels, where he met some men from the Church who would play a key role in his life in Italy. It is very likely that from 1656 until his death he acted as organist of Osimo Cathedral; in that year Antonio Bichi became bishop there. It was Bichi, nephew of Pope Urban VII, he had met in Brussels, where Bichi, as papal legate, tried to settle the Jansenist controversy. Osimo is a relatively small town south of Ancona, but was a lively centre of music in the 16th and 17th centuries, thanks to music-loving bishops who tried to attract the best musicians of the time. From 1665 to 1670 Duponchel acted as musicae praefectus at Santi XII Apostoli (Church of the Holy Apostles) in Rome. This basilica was connected to the Friars Minor since 1463. The post of musicae praefectus was comparable to that of maestro di cappella. It was the prefect's duty to play the organ, to write the music that was needed for the offices, and to direct the liturgical choir. He also had to teach singing, instrumental performance and counterpoint to the pupils of the studium. Moreover, he should attract singers and instrumentalists from elsewhere if they were needed.

After his arrival in Rome, Duponchel published his first collection of music, the Psalmi vespertini una cum litaniis Beatae Mariae Virginis; tribus vocibus concert. cum organo decantandi, which he dedicated to Andrea Bini de Spello, general of the order. The collection consists of eleven pieces for the Office of Vespers: a responsory, eight Psalms, a Magnificat and the Litanies of the Virgin. All these pieces are scored for five voices (SSATB), divided into two groups of three (SSB, ATB) and basso continuo. These works reflect the practices in Rome during the second half of the 17th century. The Church was sceptical about the newest fashions in music and generally preferred music in the stile antico, of which Palestrina was the most prominent exponent. In 1665 Pope Alexander VII published the Editto sopra le musiche, which recommends the exclusive use of texts from the official Roman liturgical books, which should be set in a "grave and devout style".

The fifth paragraph says: "[The] whole, or an important part of, a psalm, hymn or motet should not be sung by a single voice, whether deep or high. But, when it is not sung by the choir (pieno choro), let it be sung in alternation, constantly varying the singing: sometimes by equal voices, sometimes by deep voices and sometimes by high voices." This ideal finds its expression in Duponchel's Vesper music of 1665, which is a mixture of tutti and episodes for solo voices. Duponchel was not the only composer who wrote liturgical music in this manner. We also know pieces by Alessandro Scarlatti which are clearly modelled after Palestrina. However, they are different from the 'real' Palestrina and that also goes for these works by Duponchel. Elements of the style of the time are inserted, and in some of the psalms we find passages of marked text expression. That is the case, for instance, in the most dramatic verses of Dixit Dominus.

Although this is a Vesper for St Francis of Assisi, it is not a kind of reconstruction of such an office. The psalms and the Magnificat are preceded by an antiphon, and that should be repeated after the psalm or the Magnificat, or be replaced by an alternative vocal or instrumental work. That is mostly not the case here. "The structure of the office follows the sequence set out in the Breviarium romanum (1570) and the Officia propria (1583) of the Friars Minor. With the exception of the first antiphon Franciscus vir catholicus, which comes from the Sacrae cantiones (1671), all the polyphonic pieces (responsories, psalms and canticle) come from Jacques Duponchel's Psalmi vespertini (1665)." (booklet) The plainchant is sung on melodies from the Officium sancti Francisci (c1232-35) by Julian von Speyer. They are sung by the low voices in unison. The hymn is performed in alternation with organ versets by Giovanni Battista Fasolo, who from 1648 to 1649 was musicae praefectus of Santi XII Apostoli. The Salve Regina which closes the programme, is from the pen of Francesco Foggia, who was maestro di cappella at the Archbasilica of St John Lateran.

It seems unlikely that any music by Duponchel has ever been recorded before. That makes this disc a very interesting addition to the discography. It also documents the style of writing of liturgical music in Rome in the second half of the 17th century. Duponchel's music performed here, shows that this relatively 'old-fashioned' style does not prevent music from being expressive. Duponchel was undoubtedly a good composer, and the attention given to him with this recording is well deserved. The ensemble Harmonia Sacra is doing an excellent job here. It comprises very fine voices, and delivers outstanding performances, both in the tutti and in the episodes for solo voices. Loris Barrucand's stylish organ playing is the finishing touch.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Harmonia Sacra

CD Reviews