Magazine article The Tracker

The Complete Organ Works of Jehan Titelouze, Hymn and Magnificat Settings

Magazine article The Tracker

The Complete Organ Works of Jehan Titelouze, Hymn and Magnificat Settings

Article excerpt

RECORDINGS

The Complete Organ Works of Jehan Titelouze, Hymn and Magnificat Settings, Robert Bates, organist, 1630 organ of the Église Saint-Michel in Bolbec, France. 3 CDs, Loft LRCD-1120/21/22. This recording is simply a magnificent achievement. It presents the work of a master organ composer who was for most of us, hitherto, merely one of those names we read about in music history. There are various reasons for our neglect of the music of Titelouze and one of these is shared with some of the other composers of the meantone era. Played in equal temperament this music can seem to be wallowing pointlessly about within the confines of the "good" notes of this tuning. Another problem is the difficulty of finding an instrument that provides the timbres, textures, and dynamics the music calls for. And finally, how does one play this music? What ornaments, what tempos, what nuances, what registrations does one use? Convincing answers to these questions are masterfully brought forth in this monumental recording.

Titelouze was born in 1562 or 1563 in St. Omer, then a part of the Spanish Netherlands. In 1585, he moved to Rouen as organist at St.-Jean, and then three years later as organist of the cathedral where he remained for the rest of his life. He and organbuilder Crespin Carlier (ca. 1560-1636) are credited with creating the French Classic organ style. His music stems from the Renaissance vocal style, and its finely crafted polyphony is a marked contrast to the somewhat more homophonie style of French Classic composers like Couperin et al. His Hymns and Magnificats are the first French organ collections. The Magnificats are in all eight of the church modes. The hymns, some twelve of them, comprise variously three or four versets. (Incidentally, if you would like free downloads of this music go to imslp.org/wiki/ Category:Titelouze%2C_Jean. Alas, Magnificats 7 and 8 are missing here.)

When Robert Bates played music of Titelouze on the organ in Bolbec in 2009 he said "I finally heard this music as I had only imagined it could sound." This instrument was originally built by a Scottish-born Guillaume Lesselier, a former employee of Carlier, for the Church of Sainte-Croix-Saint-Ouen in Rouen. Since Titelouze had collaborated with Lesselier on another organ in Rouen, it's quite possible he played a part in the design of the Sainte-Croix instrument. The organ went through several modifications and enlargements in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in 1792 was moved to Bolbec. In 1997, it was restored based on its state in 1792, but it still contains much of the original pipe work that inspired restorers Boisseau-Cattiaux to orient the sound to the 17th century. Bates writes: "Perhaps no other historic organ in France is better suited to the music of Jehan Titelouze."

The organ has four manuals. The Positif Dorsal is a 4' division and the Grand-Orgue is 8' with a 16' Bourdon. A Récit and an Echo occupy the other two manuals, and a 30-note pedal C, AA, D-f', has Flûtes 8' and 4' and Trompette 10' and Clairon 5' (the AA is part of a ravalement for the reed stops and is played by what appears to be a low C# key). The pedal keys are of the old French style, and if you go to www.gothic-catalog.com you can find a video of Bates playing them. By the time you read this you can probably download Bate's registrations for the recordings and the texts of the Magnificat and Hymns. The organ is tuned in a setting devised by Joseph Sauveur (1653-1716) in 1701; it is similar to the 5th-comma meantone used in France in the 16th and 17th centuries. …

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