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Antoine DE FÉVIN (c1470 - 1512): "Requiem d'Anne de Bretagne"

Doulce Mémoirea
Dir: Denis Raisin Dadre
Yann-Fanch Kemener, voiceb

rec: Sept 20 -24, 2010, Fontevraud, Abbaye
ZigZag Territoires - ZZT110501 (© 2011) (71'25")
Liner-notes: E/F; lyrics - translations: E/F
Cover & track-list

JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1450/55-1521): Cueurs desolez/Ne cherchez plus/Plorans ploravi a 5a; Costanzo FESTA (c1485/90-1545): Quis dabit oculis nostris a 4a; Antoine DE FÉVIN: Missa pro fidelibus defunctis a 5a; ? DE LUPUS (fl 1518-1530): Miserere mei Domine a 6a; Pierre MOULU (1484?-c1550): Fiere attropos mauldicte a 5a; Pierre DE LA RUE (c1452-1518): Cueurs desolez/Dies illa a 5a; trad: Annaig ar Glazb; Skolader yanouankb; Stabat Materb

Paulin Bündgen, alto; Hugues Primard, tenor; Vincent Bouchot, baritone; Marc Busnel, Philippe Roche, bass; Eva Godard, cornetto muto; Johanne Maître, Elsa frank, Jérémie Papasergio, Denis Raisin Dadre, recorder, dulcian; Franck Poitrineau, sackbut

Much music written before the 19th century was composed for specific occasions. As it is usually performed at the concert stage today it is inevitable that essential elements of the first performances are lost. Representatives of historical performance practice are sometimes accused that they try to reconstruct a past which has gone and cannot be brought back to life. That accusation is far beside the truth: performers of early music know - probably even better than their critics - that the original circumstances can't be recreated.

The present disc is a vivid illustration. The title, Requiem d'Anne de Bretagne, is a little misleading. Although the music which Doulce Mémoire has recorded is linked to the funeral of Queen Anne of France - also known as Anne de Bretagne - there is no evidence that this particular music was performed at the occasion of her funeral. The Messe de Requiem by Antoine de Févin was certainly not composed for that occasion, as De Févin died at the end of 1511 or the beginning of 1512, two years before the death of Queen Ann on 9 January 1514.

An extended and precise description of all ceremonial events which ended with the Queen's burial in Saint-Denis has been preserved. It was written by her herald of arms, Pierre Choque. Unfortunately there is no information as to which music was sung. It is mentioned that masses were sung, but not exactly which and by whom. One piece of information is relevant in order to decide which music to choose. Pierre Choque writes that the chapels of both King and Queen were involved in the ceremonies. Both had some of the most prominent composers of the time in their ranks. The Chapelle du Roi, which was under the direction of Antoine de Févin until his death, included Johannes Prioris, Costanzo Festa, Antoine de Longueval and Jean Braconnier. Among the members of Chapelle du Reine were Jean Mouton, Jean Richafort, Claudin de Sermisy and Pierre Moulu. For the music on this disc Raisin Dadre has selected pieces by several composers from both chapels.

The programme begins with a motet-chanson by Pierre Moulu, Fiere attropos mauldicte, which has a French text and a the text of the antiphon Anxiatus est in me (My spirit is anxious within me, my heart within me is troubled), sung by the tenor. It has a remarkable scoring for five low voices, which reflects the mournful character of the text. This piece was specifically written at the occasion of the Queen's death, and that is also the case with the motet Quis dabit oculis nostris (Who will give out eyes a fountain of tears?) by Costanzo Festa. It is a strongly rhetorical piece, with an effective pause following the words "Musica sileat" (Let music be silent) and a repeated exclamation on the name of the Queen, "Anna".

The choice of the Requiem mass was less obvious. For several reasons various settings from the chapels' repertoire were rejected, like those by Ockeghem, Richafort, Brumel and De la Rue. The two remaining Requiems were those by Antoine de Févin and Johannes Prioris. "For musical reasons, we have chosen to evoke the funeral of Anne of Brittany through Févin's Missa pro defunctis rather than the setting by Prioris which would have been equally legitimate", Raisin Dadre writes in his liner-notes. The main musical reason is the scoring for five voices with two bass parts. "This gives an extraordinary effect of depth absent from the Requiem of Prioris, which never exceeds four voices". There is also a historical reason: the special relationship between King Louis XII and Antoine de Févin, whom he greatly admired. The parts by De Févin are interspersed by two other pieces. Between the tractus and the offertoire we hear an instrumental performance of the penitential psalm Miserere mei Domine by De Lupus. The liner-notes don't tell anything about him. It is probably the composer of whom New Grove doesn't mention a Christian name and who did compose a six-part setting of the Miserere. There is no evidence, though, that he was connected to the French court. Therefore the reason for choosing this piece is a bit of a mystery. The Sanctus of the Mass is followed by Cueurs desolez/Dies illa, a déploration by Pierre de la Rue. It is also performed instrumentally, just like Josquin's Cueurs desolez/Ne cherchez plus/Plorans ploravi, a specimen of the same genre, and performed - also with instruments - in the section which precedes the Requiem.

A bit surprising is also the contribution of Yann-Fanch Kemener, one of the last native speakers of Breton. He sings three gwerzioù, narrative laments in the Breton language. The decision of including some specimens of Breton music is understandable as Anne was Brittany's duchess and she was - and is until this day - very popular with the people of Brittany. But these three specimens of the gwerz have nothing to do with the Queen and are probably from a later date than the other music of the programme.

The performances are impressive. The use of a consort of dulcians which play colla voce in the Requiem and also perform the instrumental items lend great depth to the music and emphasizes the solemnity of the occasion which is the raison d'être of this recording. The singers deliver outstanding performances, and the ensemble is perfect. The tempi are rather slow, but that seems appropriate considering the character of the music.

This disc can't be considered a reconstruction in any way. Even so, a programme like this is probably the best way to present this repertoire as it gives at least some clue about how it was originally conceived and performed.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

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