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Jacques ARCADELT (1507 - 1568): "Motetti, Madrigali, Chansons"

Choeur de Chambre de Namur (Leonardo García Alarcón)a; Cappella Mediterranea (Leonardo García Alarcón)b; Doulce Mémore (Denis Raisin Dadre)c; Angélique Mauillon, harpd; Joris Verdin, organe

rec: Feb 2018, Bruère-Allichamps (F), Abbaye de Noirlacbcd; May 2018, Stavelot (B), Église Saint-Sébastienae
Ricercar - RIC 392 (3 CDs) (© 2018) (57'54" / 60'40" / 68'38")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

[CD 1]a Domine non secundum a 5; Filiae Jerusalem a 4; Gloriosae virginis Mariae a 5; Lamentationes Jeremiae II a 5; Memento salutis auctor a 4; Missa Ave regina coelorum a 5 & 6 (Agnus Dei) [20]; O pulcherrima mulierum a 5; Pater noster a 8; Recordare Domine a 5; Salve Regina a 5
[CD 2]b Ahimè, dov'è'l bel viso a 4 [1]; Alma, perché sì trist'ogni hor ti duoli a 4 [1]; Amor, tu sai pur fare a 4 [1]; Amorosetto fiore a 4 [9]; Ancidetemi pur grievi martiri a 4 [1]; Crudel, acerba, inesorabil Morte a 5 [5]; Deh! dimm'Amor se l'alma di costei a 4 [1]; Deh fuggite, o mortali a 4 [2]; Dolce nimica mia a 4 [4]; Felici amanti, voi che d'amor lieti a 4 [7]; Hor che 'l cielo e la terra a 4 [3]; Il bianco e dolce cigno a 4 [1]; Io son ardisco di levar più gli occhi a 4 [7]; Io mi pensai che spento fusse 'l foco a 4 [1]; Io son talvolta, Donna, per morire a 4 [4]; Mentre gli ardenti rai a 4 [6]; Non mai sempre fortuna a 5 [5]; O felici occhi miei, felici voi a 4 [1]; Occhi miei lassi, mentre ch'io vi giro a 4 [1]; Quando col dolce suono a 4 [1]; Tante son le mie pene a 4 [10]; Voi mi poneste in foco a 3 [8]; Vostra fui e sarò, mentre ch'io viva a 4 [1]
[CD 3]c Amour se plaint de ton forfait a 4 [24]; Contentez vous, heureuses violettes a 4 [13]; De mes ennuys a 4 [22]; Du temps que j'estois amoureux a 4 [25]; Entendez vous point vostre amy a 4 [11]; Extrême amour est entre moy et elle a 4 [26]; Franc berger a 4 [16]; Hélas amy a 4 [17]; Il me prend fantasie a 4 [11]; J'ay acquis un serviteur a 4 [25]; La Diane que je sers a 4 [21]; Laissés la verde couleur a 4 [23]; Les yeux qui me sçeurent prendre a 4 [15]; Margot labourez les vignes a 4 [16]; Nous boirons du vin clairet a 4 [18]; Nous voyons que les hommes a 3 [16]; O le grand bien a 4 [20]; Quand je me trouve auprès de ma maitresse (I) a 4 [16]; Quand je me trouve auprès de ma maitresse (II) a 4 [28]; Si la beaulté de ma dame a 5 [27]; Tout au rebours a 5 [12]; Vous n'aurez plus mes yeux la jouissance a 4 [14]
Pierre-Louis-Philippe DIETSCH (1808-1865): Ave Maria (after Arcadelt); Franz LISZT (1811-1886): Ave Maria d'Arcadelte; Giovanni Maria TRABACI (c1575-1647): Ancidetemi pur (Arcadelt)d [29]

Sources: Jacques Aradelt, [1] Il primo libro de madrigali, 1539; [2] Il vero secondo libro di madrigali, 1539; [3] Il terzo libro di madrigali, 1539; [4] Il quarto libro di madrigali, 1539; [5] Scotto, ed., Le dotte madrigali et eccellente compositioni de i madrigali a cinque voci, 1540; [6] Claudio Maria Veggio, Madrigali a quattro voci di meser Claudio Veggio con la gionta di sei altri di Arcadelth della misura a breve, 1540; [7] Gardano, ed., Il primo libro dei madrigali di Maistre Jhan, 1541; [8] Jacques Arcadelt, Il primo libro di madrigali d'Archadelt a 3 voci, 1542; [9] Antonfrancesco Doni, Dialogo della musica, 1544; [10] Jacques Arcadelt, Il quinto libro di madrigali di Archadelt, 1544; Attaingnant, ed., [11] Vingtcinquiesme livre, 1547; [12] Vingt sixiesme livre, 1548; [13] Trente deuxième livre, 1549; Le Roy et Ballard, ed., [14] Quart livre de chansons, 1553; [15] Second livre de chansons, 1554; [16] Tiers livre de chansons, 1554; [17] Sixième livre de chansons, 1556; [18] Septième livre de chansons, 1556; [19] Jacques Arcadelt, Missa tres, 1557; [20] Granjon, Le second trophée de musique, 1559; [21] Du Chemin, ed., Quatorsiesme livre, 1560; Le Roy et Ballard, ed., [22] Quart livre de chansons, 1561; [23] Tiers livre de chansons ... par M. Iaques Arcadet, 1561; [24] Douziesme livre de chansons, 1561; [25] Quatorsiesme livre de chansons, 1561; [26] Cingieme livre de chansons, 1567; [27] Sisiesme livre de chansons, 1569; [28] Mellange de chansons tant des vieux autheurs que des modernes, 1572; [29] Giovanni Maria Trabaci, Il secondo libro de ricercate, 1615

[CCN] Camille Hubert, Estelle Lefort, Caroline Weynants, soprano; Gabriel Jublin, Jérôme Vavasseur, alto; Marcio Soares Hollanda, Renaud Tripathi, Maxime Melnik, Frederico Projecto, Riccardo Pisani, Ciro Aroni, tenor; Jean-Marie Marchal, Matteo Bellotto, baritone; Philippe Favette, Javier Jimenez Cuevas, bass; Adrià Gracia, organ
[CM] Mariana Flores, Julie Roset, soprano; Carlo Vistoli, alto; Valerio Contaldo, Francisco Fernández Rueda, tenor; Matteo Bellotti, bass; Matthias Spaeter, lute; Quito Gato, lute, guitar; Leonardo García Alarcón, harpsichord, organ
[DM] Calara Coutouly, soprano; Paulin Bündgen, alto; Hugues Primard, tenor; Matthieu Le Levreur, baritone; Marc Busnel, bass; Johannes Maître, Elsa Frank, Jérémie Papasergio, Debis Raisin Dadre, recorder; Bérengère Sardin, harp; Pascale Boquet, lute, guitar

The release of a disc entirely devoted to the oeuvre of Jacques Arcadelt is a rarity, let alone a set of three discs. One piece from his pen is performed and recorded regularly: the madrigal Il bianco e dolce cigno. The lack of attention for this composer is all the more surprising as in particular his madrigals were highly appreciated. As so often, the treatment of a composer in our time does not reflect his status in his own lifetime.

There was a special reason for this project. The Choeur de Chambre de Namur was considering how to celebrate its thirtieth birthday. As it takes special care of the music from its own region, and as music of the renaissance has a special place in its repertoire, it was decided that Jacques Arcadelt should be the subject of a recording project, as he was born near Namur. This set of three discs sheds light on the three genres represented in his oeuvre: sacred music, madrigals and chansons. The madrigals are the best-known part of his output, and that was the kind of music which brought him fame in his lifetime. It is also the most sizeable part of his oeuvre, whereas sacred music plays a minor role. The probably least-known aspect of his activities as a composer are his contributions to the genre of the chanson.

It was in Namur that Arcadelt received his first musical training, first at the church of Saint-Pierre au Château, then at the school of the Collegiate of Saint-Aubin. It has been suggested that he was also a pupil of Josquin, but there is no documentary evidence to support this claim. In the late 1570s he was in Rome, where he met Philippe Verdelot. For some time in his career they were colleagues, first in Rome, then in Florence. It can hardly be a coincidence that both of them are considered the 'inventors' of the madrigal. A manuscript in Florence, dated 1531, includes six motets by Arcadelt. In 1532, the publisher Jacques Modernes in Lyon started a series of editions of sacred music, and the first volume included motets by Arcadelt and Verdelot. In preparation of this edition, both composers were in Lyon that year. From 1539 onwards Arcadelt was in the service of the papacy in Rome. Here he must have met Michelangelo; he set two of the latter's poems, and Michelangelo asked a friend of his to give Arcadelt something in order to express his gratitude. Probably in the early 1550s Arcadelt left Rome and entered the service of the Cardinal of Lorraine; he remained in his service until his death. During his time in France he set some of the Psalms in the Huguenot psalter, but there is no firm evidence that he was leaning towards Protestantism.

As has already been noted, the size of Arcadelt's sacred oeuvre is small. One explanation could be that during his time in the papal chapel he was often ill, which may have reduced his possibilities to substantially contribute to the chapel's repertoire. His sacred oeuvre includes three masses; the first disc includes the Agnus Dei from the Missa Ave Regina coelorum (in his liner-notes Jérôme Lejeune announces the upcoming recording of the complete mass). In addition there are three settings of verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, written during Arcadelt's time in the service of the Cardinal of Lorraine; the second set is performed here. The remaining part comprises one Magnificat and about 30 motets. In his sacred oeuvre Arcadelt is a typical representative of the Franco-Flemish school; it is dominated by imitative counterpoint, and sometimes he reduces the number of voices. Several motets consist of several sections for a different number of voices, such as Domine non secundum, whose sections are for three, four and five voices respectively. O pulcherrima mulierum is a setting of words from the Song of Songs. It is notable that these are sung by the two upper and the two lower voices. The fifth voice in the middle sings, as cantus firmus, "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis". This way the motet expresses the traditional connection between the Song of Songs and the veneration of Mary. That also goes for the Marian antiphon Salve Regina; here Arcadelt ignores the plainchant melody. Pater noster is for eight voices, but Arcadelt does not split the ensemble in two choirs.

The Choeur de Chambre de Namur is an outstanding ensemble which has made quite a name for itself in early music. It has been involved in many recordings of music of the renaissance, baroque and classical periods. In name it is a choir, but actually it is more like a vocal ensemble, as all its members are capable of performing in a solo role. The performances here are excellent, and despite the number of singers there is much transparency, which allows for the text to be intelligible. In all the pieces the singers are supported by an organ. This seems a legitimate option, but I don't see the need to use it all the time. Performing some pieces a capella would have created some variation. The inclusion of instruments playing colla voce may also have been taken in consideration.

Arcadelt was an extremely productive composer of madrigals. His books with this kind of pieces were printed in quick succession, and were reprinted a number of times. The first book of four-part madrigals, printed in 1539, saw 58 different editions, the last dating from 1654. Six further books were published between 1539 and 1544. In addition his madrigals were included in several anthologies. Most of the madrigals are for four voices, but one book consists of three-part pieces, and some five-part madrigals are included in anthologies. Often Arcadelt makes uses of imitative counterpoint, but there are also some pieces which are more homophonic. Homophony is also a way to emphasize elements in the text, alongside individual treatment of single words. There is little immediate text expression through madrigalisms, as they were used by composers of later generations. Even so, Arcadelt does not miss the opportunity to depict the opening phrase of Deh fuggite, o mortali: "Fly then, o mortals, from placing a foot on love's crossing". And Hor che 'l cielo et la terra ("Now that heaven and earth and the winds are silent") is impregnated with lovely peace and quiet. The programme includes Quando co'l dolce suono, the madrigal which mentions the name of Polissena Pecorina, a famous Venetian singer in the mid-16th century, who often sang with a consort of viols, as is demonstrated on a recent disc of the ensemble arcimboldo.

The Cappella Mediterranea delivers outstanding performances. The voices blend perfectly, and the singers are very much aware of the text and its emotional content. A number of pieces are performed by a soloist, with instruments taking care of the remaining parts. That seems to have been common practice in the early days of the madrigal, when there was not such a close connection between text and music. Jérôme Lejeune, in his liner-notes, observes that the style of composition of some madrigals seems to point in the direction of such a way of performing. "[It] is clear that an analysis of the madrigals often reveals a style of writing in which the uppermost line takes on the musical language of a chanson whilst the lower voices are considered more as accompaniment and are therefore not allotted words. We can therefore imagine that the great number of lute intavolature based on Arcadelt’s madrigals were also used as an accompaniment for the madrigal when there was only one voice available, who would then be allotted the uppermost line."

The third disc is devoted Arcadelt's chansons. Lejeune comes up with an interesting observation. "Although it is usual in musicological texts to classify the French chanson and the Italian madrigal as two separate genres - which I believe to be a mistake - Arcadelt's works can be seen as a fine illustration of the many aspects that can act as a link between the two genres." The editor of Arcadelt's complete works discovered that the composer used the same music for his madrigal I vaghi fiori e l'amorose fronde and for his chanson Quand je me trouve auprès de ma maitresse. (The latter is included here, but unfortunately the madrigal has not been recorded.) The slight differences are the effect of the different languages, and the madrigal has some ornamentation which the chanson has not. Both were published in 1549, which makes it impossible to decide which one came first. Moreover, several of Arcadelt's printed editions include madrigals and chansons. And although most of his chansons date from his period in France, he composed a number of them while working in Italy. His chansons were not published in separate editions; it was common practice to print collections of chansons by various composers. Arcadelt composed almost 130 chansons, many of which were included in anthologies published by Pierre Attaingnant and, after the latter's death, by Adrien Le Roy and Pierre Ballard. Several of these editions mentioned the name of Arcadelt - mostly spelled as Arcadet - first, which attests to the composer's reputation.

Like the motets, the chansons include imitative polyphony and homophonic episodes. Some chansons are entirely homophonic, more often than is the case in the madrigals. There is another difference: although some madrigals are strophic as far as the text is concerned, they are usually through-composed. In chansons, on the other hand, the same music is often used for the different stanzas. Some chansons have a 'popular' character, such as Nous boirons du vin clairet, whereas Laissés la verde couleur is an elegy by Venus on the death of Adonis. Quand je me trouve auprés de ma maitresse, already mentioned above, appears here in two entirely different settings. J'ay acquis un serviteur is a chanson which includes a response, a popular form at the time.

As in the case of the madrigals, a number of chansons are performed by one voice and instruments, and some can be heard in a purely instrumental version. It is interesting to read that Denis Raisin-Dadre was sceptical at first about the quality of Arcadelt's chansons, but with time his admiration grew and at the end he came to the conclusion that "Arcadelt's chansons are indeed real jewels". That shows in the engaging performances by his ensemble, which consists of excellent singers, using historical pronunciation. The lighter pieces are performed with exactly the right touch, whereas the more serious items have enough weight to make a real impression.

This set includes some pieces by other composers. The first disc ends with a curosity: an Ave Maria, which the French composer Pierre-Louis-Philippe Dietsch presented as being from Arcadelt's pen. Soon it was suggested that he had written it himself, but later it was discovered that it was a contrafactum of Arcadelt's chanson Nous voyons que les hommes. Ironically the motet is one of Arcadelt's most frequently-performed works. Franz Liszt was also misled by Dietsch's claim, as he composed his Ave Maria d'Arcadelt. The Neapolitan composer Giovanni Maria Trabaci took the madrigal Ancidetemi pur as the subject of diminutions. These are played here by Angélique Mauillon on the harp. It is a bit odd that they are placed at the end of the chanson disc rather than the madrigal disc. These three pieces are very different in style, but all attest to the admiration of later generations for Arcadelt.

He was a real master, who unfortunately seems not to be estimated at his true value. Let us hope this set of discs will contribute to a growing interest in his music. It is a worthy monument, and deserves to be strongly recommended to every lover of renaissance music.

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Cappella Mediterranea
Cappella Mediterranea
Doulce Mémoire

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