Recording Date and Place : January, March, April and August 2001
The 1991 French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) attracted an audience of unexpected size for a story about French Baroque viol music, becoming a runaway hit in France and Germany and even gained wide distribution in the classical-chary U.S. The commercial ramifications grew with the release of the film's soundtrack, featuring early music giant Jordi Savall on viol; the soundtrack achieved platinum sales levels in its initial release. The film's story, built on a very few sketchy facts about the reclusive seventeenth century viol player known only as Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, drew viewers with its modern resonances touching on the conflict between art and popular success, and partly with its dramatic lighting reminiscent of the paintings of Louis le Nain. The soundtrack has a few pieces with vocals or with a small ensemble of other players.
The presentation of the soundtrack attempted to address listeners who hadn't seen the film, as well as offering more information to those who had; the liner notes contain a great deal of interesting material discussing the place of the French court and its cultural initiatives vis-a-vis the sensuality of Italian music on the one hand and the restrictions of hardcore religious reformers on the other. Does the music by Marais and Sainte Colombe included here actually illustrate these conflicts for the average listener, independently of the film? Perhaps not, although Savall does offer persuasive readings of Sainte Colombe's knotty, intellectual pieces with their oddly unresolved dissonances. And the notes don't tell you much about the music you're actually hearing. One other thing to consider is that those who are irritated by the sound of breathing noise in viol music will hear it in abundance on this recording. With all these caveats out of the way, however, the bottom line is that this is a fine recording of haunting solo music that has a unique hothouse atmosphere. Audiophile lovers of the film who have the original release may wish to invest in the SACD version, which captures every breath of Savall's and every little chirp made by the strings of the viol.
All Music Guide
December 1991: the French film world was swept off its feet by a single event, the the release of the film Tous les matins du monde. An intimist film in which the star role was played by... music, the music of a forgotten master, Mr de Sainte Colombe and his disciple Marin Marais. Surpassing all expectations, the film was an immediate success and for two weeks held its own at the box office against two powerful "machines" of the American cinema, Terminator 2 and Bernard and Bianca, - it was, after all, the Christmas period! The soundtrack of the film immediately followed suit and made its way into the charts and other all-category best-sellers, just behind Michael Jackson and ahead of Queen...
It was an incredible success which justly rewarded the fruit of a close collaboration among three great artists, all of them lovers of early music, who had taken on the challenge of making music the very crux of a film : the director, Alain Corneau, the writer and author of the screenplay, Pascal Quignard and above all Jordi Savall, the musical director and performer of the soundtrack. The film scooped up 7 Cesars - including the award for the best film music, which went to Jordi Savall - and received numerous international awards for the soundtrack.
The success was not confined to France, however ; the film was distributed in more than 50 countries and over a million copies of the CD were sold, an extraordinary number for classical music sales and one which had never before been achieved by an early music recording. There was a sudden surge in the number of music-lovers as they discovered Sainte Colombe, Marin Marais, Jordi Savall. Young people turned towards early music, a whole generation was changed by the discovery which overnight brought this music out of the exclusive domain of the "connoisseurs". And that isn't the end of the story; ten years have passed and now Alia Vox handsomely celebrates the re-release of this exceptional CD in its collection. This time, a special, limited 10th anniversary edition. First of all, it contains the music from the film, entirely remastered in 24 bit / 96 kHz, fittingly presented in a luxury digipak illustrated with numerous photos from both the film itself and the filming. And then, the bonus CD, Dix ans apres - Ten years on, which will bring to "all the world's music-lovers" new pieces for orchestra and solo viola, as well as a number of pieces from the original soundtrack in their complete versions, and so provide more than an hour of happy listening.
Ten years on... Tous les matins du monde is still a recording which is full of poetry, emotion and freshness. This CD marks an indispensable rediscovery which has unquestionably contributed to the dissemination of early music.
INTERVIEW TO JORDI SAVALL: TOUS LES MATINS DU MONDE, 10 YEARS ON
Ten years after it first appeared, is the re-release of Tous les matins du monde by Alia Vox an important event for you?
Yes, symbolically it is very important to regain the ownership and distribution of a project which we ourselves developed and which has become one of the landmark recordings of ancient music for a whole era. Moreover, both the programme and the performance are the result of long preparation, meticulous attention to detail, an in-depth study of the performance of French music of that period and particularly of the ways and style of playing the viola da gamba. The result is a recording which, ten years on, is still full of poetry and extraordinary freshness.
What led you to choose the programme for the bonus CD, Dix ans apres?
We thought it would be interesting to accompany the original CD with a number of new pieces for orchestra or solo viola, preceded by the famous Marche pour la ceremonie des Turcs. All of these pieces, recorded since 1999 for Alia Vox, were executed with very special attention to their quality of performance and sound. This CD also includes the complete versions of a number of works such as the Prelude (Fantaisie) in D minor, which may be regarded as one of the finest self-portraits of the little-known Sainte Colombe the younger, as well as the full version of Folies d'Espagne, by Marin Marais, in the author's revised edition of 1701.
What have you learnt from this unique experience?
First of all, one needs to realise that a musical performance will have more feeling and meaning when it is closely connected with life, because it is life - even when it unfolds in the world of fiction - which gives us a deeper understanding of emotion. We realised that we found ourselves an exceptional situation in which we were required to capture, more than ever, all the magical moments of each piece of music in order to provide the proper counterpoint to the image on the screen; so, in order to fit the music perfectly into the filmscript, throughout the recording Alain Corneau and I discussed, on the basis of Pascal Quignard's text, the situation and the human context in which the music was to provide the core, as well as its meaning in the lives of the characters. In this way, I became aware of the differences in terms of commitment and emotion between playing La Reveuse in concert "in the abstract", even on one's most inspired days, and imagining Marin Marais playing the music for the last time for the young Madeleine as she lay dying.
Ten years on, has there been any change in the way you perform ancient music?
There are always changes in the way one sees and interprets works. Each day, we approach things afresh, because that is a fundamental law of the renewal of life, especially when it comes to musical performance. In my opinion, that is a an absolute must in any truly creative artistic approach. Having said that, and in spite of the real differences in tempo and character in our new interpretation of some of the pieces - as in the case of Marche pour la ceremonie des Turcs -, I think that the CD Tous les matins du monde continues to have a remarkably modern feel and spontaneity, even after 10 years. I could never have imagined how extraordinarily stimulating this experience would prove to be for the development of our approach to interpretation, thanks to the bridge established between a body of music which had been confined to oblivion and the living expression of an art form so intrinsically a part of our own age as the cinema.
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I have written at length about the figure of Sainte Colombe: first in my novel Le Salon du Wurtemberg (The Salon in Wurttemberg), which was published in 1986; again in La Lecon de Musique, which appeared in 1987; then in my novel Tous les Matins du Monde (All the Mornings of the World), which I wrote in 1990; finally, in the novel Terrasse a Rome, which was published at the beginning of the year 2000. I have ready for publication yet another book pervaded by him, this time about his old age and his return from England. I don't know whether I shall ever hand it over to a publisher. The novel has a very strange last line: "All was sadness, hunger, rage, arrogance and injury." On that very odd note the story ends.
I still know nothing about his death.
Nothing is known about his childhood or his youth.
I discovered Sainte Colombe when I bought a vinyl disc recorded by Wieland Kuijken and Jordi Savall in 1976. The disc contained five of the concertos for two bass viols, including Tombeau Les Regrets. The recording came ten years after the works of Sainte Colombe had been rediscovered in Geneva in 1966.
Sainte Colombe's appearance would thenceforth be indelibly associated in my mind with the face of Jordi Savall.
Except that Sainte Colombe was more drawn.
I have come across these words that I wrote on my manuscript defining the man: "Harsh, humble, free, prudish, evasive, quick-tempered, refined, cunning, subtle, abrupt, mysterious".
I have always thought that Madame de Sainte Colombe was the exact likeness of Ravello's Roman Pallas. Tall, very much taller than Sainte Colombe. She had a fine bosom, was placid, strong, trusting, generous, open-minded and conciliatory. In the four books I have just mentioned, I have not written a single word about the extraordinary life she led until the moment she died.
In 1986, Karl Chenogne, the viol-playing hero-narrator of Le Salon du Wurtemberg, wrote: "Out of the black telephone receiver a voice from across the Atlantic was asking me to record the complete works for viol by Sainte Colombe, write a biography of the composer, put together the illustrations for a presentation box, a big launch and an exhibition catalogue, and to note down the main ideas for a film based on the composer's life... The production would be backed by two American foundations and a university in California. The film project had been entrusted to a well-known director. It was as if the whole world was about to discover Sainte Colombe..."
It would be another five years before the idea for the novel would take off or materialise.
That would happen not in California, but in Paris.
I remember my first meeting with Jordi Savall in 1990. He had read the novel: he had the same air of concentration that I imagined in Sainte Colombe. He spoke of it in the same way that Sainte Colombe would have done. He was wonderful. He was also extraordinarily keen to meet people from the world of cinema. We went with Montse to Port Royal Les Champs. They were recording there in the middle of the night. It was cold. I fell asleep on a bench in the chapel.
I wasn't present during the filming.
I have kept only one memento from 1991.
It is an old 17th century score on which Jordi had copied out in blue ink the piece by Sainte Colombe entitled Les Pleurs, in the key of C. At the bottom of the score, Jordi had written "To Pascal, a souvenir of a dream..." Sometimes dreams reach out beyond the night that enfolds them. The reputation of the composer Sainte Colombe would for ever after be as undisputed as that of the painter Georges de La Tour, another artist whose name was barely known at the end of the 19th century and who would never have made a come-back had it not been for Stendhal and Taine. The world of imagination sends out its shoots into the real world, and in time the two worlds gradually interlace, ramify and increase. Art is so extraordinary. Survival is so extraordinary. We begin by consuming our mother in her womb, then we are nourished by her milk. We steal her language before her very eyes. We are all thieves. We invent sense in answer to her smiles. To learn is to suck at the bones of the dead, crack them open, to whistle in the death of those who preceded us. To live is to live as a parasite on their works, on the ruins and the memory of their works. We live surrounded by hallucinations which only barely conceal deprivation and absence. We are all precarious and desynchronised. We begin too early. We all die before we have fully ripened.
The source is always invisible.
Messages of truth flow through bodies, unperceived by the senders and receivers of those messages.
- Pascal Quignard - Paris, October 2001 (translated by Jacqueline Minett)
The seventeenth century is other man what usually springs to mind: Versailles, with all its splendour, majesty and grandeur, the admirable discipline of its parks, gardens and fountains and their taming of the natural world, the noble simplicity of its chapel, the Galerie de Glaces cunningly calculated to reflect the light of the setting sun... All of these things blind us to the century's true complexity. That was no doubt the aim of Louis XIV, and he succeeded. If it was his intention to efface the Baroque exuberance of Italy, on the one hand, and the austerity of the Huguenots and Jansenists on the other, he certainly achieved his purpose. Around him were Spain (his pale wife Maria Theresa was born an Infanta of Spain), Austria (his mother was Anne of Austria), England (to whose deposed king he offered a safe haven at Saint-Germain-en-Laye), the Netherlands (to which he sent Conde and Turenne), Germany (where he scooped Up the Palatinate by marrying his son to the Princess Palatine). The South was Baroque, papist, Jesuitical, golden and gilded, Berniniesque, glorying in its Madonnas with their flowing tresses, its statues and its oratorios; to the North and the East there were the rigidly austere and iconoclastically puritan Lutherans and Calvinists.
But France was no less complex. We think of it as classical, but it went beyond classicism. Seventeenth-century France both contained and went further than these opposite extremes, although we might be blinded to the fact as we contemplate the sober, balanced, powerful and peaceful contours of the Palace of Versailles. France at that time was a battlefield where the battles were sometimes out in the open (the Fronde) and sometimes were fought in a more covert, secret fashion. The country harboured latent and somewhat affected Baroque tendencies; it also witnessed the last throes of a concealed Jansenism and an inward-looking Calvinism which, on the surface at least, were soon to be brought to heel. The struggle, however, was as much about aesthetics, music, morality and things spiritual as about social, political and even economic matters. On one side there was illusion, frivolity, dissipation, Baroque trompe l'oeil and the art of movement, championed by the Jesuits, the Court nobility, the opera, the festivities and the illuminations; on the other side there was dour austerity, represented by Jansenism, legalism and the growing bourgeoisie. Morality and aesthetics went hand in hand. The struggle was a cruel one, and it was waged in each and every man of that time. Man himself was a battlefield.
No doubt because the struggle was both aesthetic and religious, it was Pascal who, despite being a Jansenist, gave us the best definition of the unremitting struggle which marked the century: "all is one, all is diverse. How many natures are contained in human nature!" Pascal himself was at the very heart of the conflict.
A Court music of surface illusion and entertainment on the one hand and a rigorous and severe music on the other. Both coexisted in the seventeenth century. If we take Marin Marais of Versailles and the gravely austere recluse, Sainte Colombe, and put them both together, we can form a picture of the secret inner struggle - moral, spiritual, social and aesthetic - that characterised seventeenth-century France. On the first page of his Musiciens d'autrefois, Romain Rolland wrote that there was no better testament to the deep fabric of History than music; Marin Marais and Sainte Colombe prove him right.
- Philippe Beaussant (translated by Jacqueline Minett)