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Pierre CERTON (1510 - 1582): "Requiem à la Sainte-Chapelle"

Vox Cantoris
Dir: Jean-Christophe Candau

rec: Nov 2012, La Réole (Gironde), Église Saint-Pierre
Psalmus - PSAL 020 (© 2014) (59'23")
Liner-notes: E/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover & track-list

Pierre CERTON: Déploration sur la mort de Claudin de Sermisy a 4 [1]; Missa pro defunctis a 4; Jean MOUTON (bef. 1459-1522): Peccantem me quotidie; plainchant: De profundis (faux-bourdon Jean du Moulin (?-?)); Sacrae lectiones novem ex propheta Iob, Lectio VII: Prima pars (Spiritus meus attenuabitur)a

[1] Pierre Certon, Les meslanges, 1570

Andrés Rojas-Urrego, Yann Rolland, superius; Jean-Christophe Candau, Damien Rivière, contratenor; Hervé Lamy (asolo), Luc Terrieux, tenor; Malcolm Bothwell, Stephan Imboden, bass

In 1570 Pierre Certon published a collection of 84 chansons under the title Les meslanges. On the title page he is called compositeur de musique de la chapelle du Roy, which was also given to two composers before him: Pierre Sandrin (1547) and Claude Janequin (1557). Those two are quite well-known, in contrast to Pierre Certon who is a more or less unknown quantity. It is not known where or when he was born. The first token of his existence dates from 1529 when he was appointed matins clerk at Notre Dame in Paris. In 1532 he became clerk at the Ste Chapelle and in 1536 he was appointed Master of the Choristers, a post he held until his death.

It seems that he was close to several musicians and composers of his time, especially Claudin de Sermisy. In 1538 he composed a fricassée - a kind of quodlibet - on some of Sermisy's chanson incipits. He also refers to his colleague in the preface of his second book of motets of 1542. The connection between the two composers is the starting point of this disc devoted to the Missa pro defunctis which was published in 1558. It is not known for which occasion Certon composed this Requiem, but here it is presented as part of a kind of commemoration for Sermisy. The programme opens with a musical tribute, the Déploration sur la mort de Claudin de Sermisy, which was included in Les meslanges. It links up with a tradition which goes back as far as the déploration which Andrieu composed at the occasion of the death of Guillaume de Machaut (1377). Unfortunately the partbook of the quintus has not survived, and for this recording the piece had to be reconstructed. It is on a French text with a cantus firmus in Latin taken from the Service of the Dead.

This is followed by the Missa pro defunctis embedded in a kind of liturgical context, although only a few elements have been included. The celebrant blesses the body, sprinkling it three times and chanting the antiphon Si iniquitates - here only the incipit is sung - which is followed by the psalm De profundis clamavi sung here in a faux-bourdon setting by Jean du Moulin, master of the children's choir at the church in Sens. Next are a reading from the book of Job - sung in plainchant by Hervé Lamy - and the responsory Peccantem me quotidie by Jean Mouton.

The Missa pro defunctis comprises Introit, Kyrie, Gradual (Si ambulem), Offertory (Domine Jesu Christe), Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Communion (Lux aeterna). The programme closes with the In paradisum. The mass is for four voices, but there are also some sections for reduced forces. These are performed with one voice per part, whereas the tutti sections are sung with two voices per part. The mass also includes sections in plainchant which are mostly performed by the whole ensemble singing unisono in octaves.

That seems a questionable practice which unfortunately is not mentioned in the booklet. Another debatable issue is the choice of tempi: these are mostly pretty slow. However, in the light of the overall level of performance these don't really matter. I have great admiration for the way this repertoire is performed. The singers have very fine voices which blend perfectly, and together they produce a beautiful sound. Although this is not a liturgical reconstruction the ensemble manages to create the devotional atmosphere which one associates with an occasion like the Service of the Dead. The singers use the historical Latin pronunciation à la française as it is called in the booklet.

This is the second disc this ensemble devotes to Certon; the first included the Missa Ave Sanctissima Maria. I haven't heard it, but on the basis of the performances on the present disc that seems well worth investigating. This disc deserves full attention of anyone who loves the polyphony of the renaissance.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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