musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Henry DU MONT (1610 - 1684): "Cantica Sacra"

Choeur de Chambre de Namur; Les Solistes
Dir: Bruno Boterf

rec: June 2009, Beaufays, Église Saint-Jean l'évangeliste
Ricercar - RIC 293 (© 2009) (72'54")

Allemanda gravis pro organo; Allemande à 3 viol.; Ave gemma virginum à 4 voc.; Cantantibus organist à 2 voc. & à 3 (viol. si placet); Cantate Domino à 4 voc; Christus natus est à 4 voc. & viol. si placet; Converte Domine oculos tuos super nos à 3 voc.; Credidi propter quod locutus sum à 3 & 4 voc. viol. si placet; In lectulo meo, Echo à 2 voc.; Laudemus Dominum à 3 voc.; Non defrauderis à 2 & 3 voc.; O Domine Deus à 4 voc.; O felix Roma (Hymnus in festo SS. Apostolorum Petri et Pauli); O gloriosa Domina à 2 voc. & 2 viol.; O salutaris hostia à 3 voc.; Panis angelicus, voce sola, vel 4 voc. aut instrumenti; Pavane à 3 viol.; Pavane pour l'orgue; Quam dilecta à 2 voc; Quae est ista à 2 voc.; Surrexit pastor bonus à 2 voc. & viol. si placet;

Caroline Weynants, Nathalie Marec, Lieve Van Lancker, soprano; Thibaut Lenaerts, Bruno Boterf, tenor; Philippe Favette, Jean-Marie Marchal, bass; Stéphanie de Failly, violin; Françoise Enock, viola da gamba; Freddy Eichelberger, organ

Henry du Mont was one of the most important musicians and composers in France in the second half of the 17th century. That is remarkable as he was not of French birth. He was born near Liège in the Southern Netherlands - the present-day Belgium - and worked for a while in that region as well as in Maastricht. In France he played an important role in the development of sacred music and in particular the specific French genre of the grand motet.

It is probably in Liège where he was influenced by Léonard Hodemont (c1575-1636) who from 1619 to 1633 was maître de chant of the Cathedral. He was strongly influenced by the new Italian concertato style, as his compositions prove. This also left its mark in the oeuvre of Henry du Mont, and that comes to the fore in Cantica Sacra of 1652, the first publication of music by Du Mont. The Italian features in this collection are manifold. It contained the first sacred compositions with a basso continuo part ever printed in France. The declamatory style in the solo parts - both in pieces for few voices as well as solo passages in four-part compositions - reflect the Italian concertato style. This goes hand in hand with eloquent text expression. Also Italian is the use of instruments in a concertante role. And, lastly, In lectulo meo is a solo motet, but with an additional 'echo', sung by a second voice. This was a popular phenomenon in Italian dramatic works of the early 17th century.

Two aspects are especially important in regard to the development of French sacred music, and in particular the grand motet. Firstly, Du Mont has added various ornaments placed above the notes, like the trill, the mordent, the pincé and port de voix. Secondly, Du Mont suggests to double the voices in tutti episodes, which is not unlike the practice of the use of soli and ripieni in German music, and which developed into the juxtaposition of petit choeur and grand choeur in the grand motet.

The choice of pieces from Cantica Sacra covers a wide variety of styles and scorings. The disc opens with an alternatim composition, O felix Roma. The first section is an organ improvisation, then follows a four-part section in which the organ plays colla parte. The third section is a duet for two tenors, the fourth is scored like the second, and the last section is for the organ to improvise. Here Freddy Eichelberger plays an Allemande by Du Mont. The disc also ends with an alternatim piece, Christus natus est nobis. The various sections are sung by one or two voices, each of which is followed by the refrain "Christus natus est nobis". Another alternatim composition is Credidi propter quod locutus sum.

In order to make the collection as usable as possible Du Mont offered the performers a choice of range, either high or low voice. The use of instruments is also left to the performers: often the indication si placet is added to the abbreviation viol.. And again Du Mont offers the performers a choice, here between a violin or a (pardessus de) viole.

The label Ricercar has released several discs with music by Henry du Mont before, with the Ricercar Consort. That is understandable, since Du Mont's music belongs to the best which has been written in the 17th century. This disc gives ample evidence of that. These recordings were very good, and so is this disc. The singers deliver excellent and very expressive performances. Sometimes I had the feeling that the performances were a little to introverted, probably because the music often is so Italian in character. But as this music was written for performances in France, which are a little more restrained, the interpreters very likely got it just right.

The role of the instruments makes this disc even more attractive. The concertante playing of the violin and the bass viol in several pieces has a wonderful effect. Freddy Eichelberger is a stylish and imaginative performer, and the French historical organ which is also used in the basso continuo - instead of a small chamber organ - greatly contributes to the impact of this recording.

Because of the quality of the music and the interpretation this disc is added to my list of recordings of the year.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Choeur de Chambre de Namur

CD Reviews