A “Baroque New Wave” moment inspired by the court of the Sun King in 17th century England

Sebastien Daucé and the Correspondances ensemble during the first performance of the program For your majestyon October 7 at the Ambronay festival. GRASS

The Ensemble of Correspondence honors a number of English composers of the Grand Siecle who were inspired by the great motets of the reign of Louis XIV.

In the depths of the Louvre, throats warm, a bow dance and a few strings vibrate. Thirty-two musicians on stage, violins, theorbos, bassoons and fifteen beautiful voices respond to the slightest movements of the conductor. Seated in a swivel chair, arms folded, pen in hand, Sébastien Daucé dispenses instructions like a commander aboard a ship: “More muscular! More flexible! More awesome! More clearly, these first three guver; be careful, the left side is very quiet! To ourselves, “no presence, no brightness, no beauty!” we must say”. The unique Baroque flavor of the 1660s and 1680s comes from the chants and sacred accents that bounce off the stone walls of the auditorium. But the instruments do not betray what the reading reveals: the repeated work is English.

Four centuries before Gustav Holst and Benjamin Britten, a generation of brilliant composers from across the Channel had for a time created an extraordinary musical abundance in England. It was at the beginning of the Stuart Restoration, in the early years of Charles II’s reign, after the chaos and wars of the English Revolution. Apart from the late superstar of the lot, Henry Purcell, these early geniuses of the English Baroque have been forgotten. This was without counting the excitement of the music lover.

“All who came immediately before Purcell are unknown today,” Regrets Sébastien Daucé, founder and artistic director of the Correspondances ensemble, specializing in French music since 17.e century The conductor behind the spectacular revival of the ballet Royale de la Nuit has sought to rekindle this forgotten musical heritage. “There is Pelham Humphrey, the brilliant virtuoso who died in 1674, like damned rock stars, aged just 27; Matthew Locke, the fame of his time; and then John Blowhe was also very creative,” he enumerates, a smile appears on his face.

Louis XIV (left, painted by Charles Le Brun in 1661) hosted Charles II of England (right, painted by John Michael Wright c. 1660-1665) at Saint-Germain-en-Laye for several years. time of exile on the continent. Bridgeman Images/Wikimedia Commons

Under the direction of Sébastien Daucé, the ensemble Correspondances has worked on a panorama of these English artists, who are associated with their French contemporaries Pierre Robert and Henry Du Mont, in a new program. For your majestyIt premiered at the Ambronay festival in October. Three months later, he returns to the Louvre to host his second concert – given in its auditorium on Friday, January 6. Almost a homecoming for Pelham Humphrey and his peers, who owed much to French influence.

Call of London

Expelled by the Revolution and then the establishment of the Cromwellian Republic, the English royal family stayed in France for a long time in exile. Louis XIV installed it in the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye until 1654. Living a festive life on the Continent, the future Charles II witnessed the first reforms of the Sun King and liked the emerging musical spirit. “During the reign of Louis XIV, the Chapel Royal developed the French rite known as the Gallican, with its genre of large motets, that is, psalms set to music, instead of the recited office. Less rigid than traditional mass!Sébastien Daucé explains. And when Charles II returned to the throne in the 1660s, he copied Louis XIV’s design in London. He reorganizes the royal church and recruits new talent..

It was as if we had forgotten all about Racine in France, and that an English troupe was producing a play!

Sebastien Dauce

Thus, the restored Royal Court undertook to move away from the polyphonies of the English Renaissance and, more precisely, to draw inspiration from the great pieces of music then in vogue in France, thanks to the compositions of Henri Du Mont and later of Lully. The local version of the great motet is called “.symphonic anthem”. Sebastien Daucé marveled at the web of influence and inspiration woven into this pivotal moment. “Charles II first collaborated with his long-time loyalist and composer Matthew Locke, to whom he commissioned the music for his coronation.he says. As for Pelham Humphrey, the gifted eldest, whom the King sent at the age of 17 to train with Lully at the French court. He gives a French touch to the ordinary English writing that will have a great influence on Purcell a few years later.

A sign of the secrecy of this repertoire is that several English artists in the ensemble had never heard of Pelham Humphrey. Others are familiar with him… but from a distance. “I knew him by name, but until then I did not have the opportunity to comment on his works”, – says countertenor Lewis Hammond. His colleague, tenor Oscar Golden-Lee, agrees: “These are pieces that have never been performed, it’s really rare to hear them in public today.”

“The irony is that these works were not lost and were widely published in the 1960s.” Says Sebastien Daucé, who enjoys being the one to revive these virtuosos of the past from France. He himself rediscovered this creativity only by drawing the thread of French influence among the English composers of the 17th century.e century “It’s like we forgot everything By Rootthat the English troupe is preparing a play in France! he is joking. The majestic Albion of the 17th centurye century and its court hymns can tip their hats to French musical art.

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