La Chapelle Royale - Philippe Herreweghe
Harmonia Mundi musique d'abord
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Henry De Thier (his french name is a translation of his original Walloon name) was horn near Liege in 1610. It was in Maastricht that he became a choirboy in 1621 and received his entire musical education. He remained there for seventeen years as chorister, clerk and, finally, organist. In Paris he re-appears as organist of the Church of St. Paul's. In 1652 he became harpsichordist of the Due d'Anjou, Louis XIV's brother.
He published his first volume of music, Cantica sacra cum vocibus turn instruments modulate, in which he claimed to be the fast in France to use the basso conlinuo. This is not quite true, although not far from the truth.
In 1657 he published his Melanges containing galant and drinking chansons, psalms, pieces for viols, for organ and harpsichord, three Magnificat, and motets for 2,4,5 and 6 voices. It is an important collection, especially for the motets which mark a notable stage in the establishment in France of the recitative style and which indicate that Du Mont had a thorough acquaintance of Italian music. This form achieves perfection in the long Dialogus de anima, a veritable oratorio, preserved in a single manuscript by Sebaslien de Brossard.
Harpsichordist to the Queen in 1662, in the following year he became assistant master of the Royal Chapel. From then on one collection of motets followed another. His Grands Motets pour la Chapcllc Royalc did not appear until two years after his death which occured in 1684. Du Mont's work is remarkable in the union he managed, to achieve between tradition and novelty, retaining the best of what had come down to him from the great polyphonic tradition of the Chapelle Royale.On the other hand, even if he was not the first one to write a recitative motet with basso continue, he did invest the genre, newly arrived in France, with an expressive quality which made him a precursor.
The Grands Motets follow a design which, without being uniform, is met with from one to the other and, here, too, creates the impression of a remarkable equilibrium. All the forms with which Du Mont experimented in his preceding works - recit, dialogue, double chorus-are united here in perfectly mustered ensembles. The ease with which the composer passes from one. mode of expression to another according to what the words of the psalm or the hymn, suggest, is particularly striking.
Super flumina Babylonis (Psalm 137 (136)) is invested almost throughout with the. melancholy of exile in all its nuancesjrom the mournful grandeur of the initial symphony where the powerful 5-part writing a la frrancaise possesses an extraordinary fullness oftex lure, to the countertenor lamento, the two choruses, the energetic central hymnum cantate chorus, the disconsolate tenor recit on the forgotten Jerusalem, and the splendour of the final chorus.
The Memorare has less grandeur, perhaps, and is on a smaller scale, its mood conditioned by the beautiful supplication to the Virgin. Tin art is more "pointillist" in character with the long recits striving to express every detail of the successive images ofa text which is less classical than the great Psalm of David, more baroque and rhetorical. Ad te curro and ad te venio suggest images of movement and haste, gemens pcccator a dejected lamentation, and noli verba despicere a supplication.
The great Magnificat surpasses the preceding motets not only in scale but also in the nobility of its inspiration and the confidence of its technique. The structure is an enlarged form of that which Du Mont had by now adopted once for all: a small and a large choir, either in opposition or united, in a massed choral formation (at limes in ten-part writing) from which three male voices, tenor and baritone in duo, and bass, detach themselves. The work develops in a single, continuous stream and it is the power stemmingfrom the cohesiveness of this vast composition that arouses admiration.