COUPERIN: New Critical Edition -
  • Reviewed (p. 66) in the current (January 2019) issue of 'The American Organist' is a new critical edition of F. Couperin's two organ masses. In addition to an extensive prefatorial discussion of the classical French organ and its colours is a treatment of the various musical forms represented in the French alternatim mass and their relation to a variety of secular genres, both French and non-French, particularly Italian. The book contains the chant verses that should be sung betwixt the organ versets. This is an unusual feature, but a long overdue one, which will save much searching about and using of multiple books for a performance in church or hall, liturgy or recital.

    The editor is Jon Baxendale, and the publisher is Cantando Musikkforlag, Norway. It may be had from Lois Fyfe in Nashville. (It is hardbound, in landscape format.)

    Another current and superb treatment of the French alternatim organ mass is Organ Music in the Reign of Louis XIV, by David Ponsford. His is a magisterial tome of which all should have a copy. The publisher is Cambridge UP.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • Nisi
    Posts: 55
    I have the new Couperin too, published for the composer's 350th birthday, and it is a fantastic, performing edition. I bought mine from Foundry Music, New Haven.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,000
    Thanks for this heads-up. I have the Schott/Guilmant, and have always meant to upgrade...but the L'oiseau lyre has been hard to find. This should be really nice!
  • Chant in alternatim literature is a not-clear-cut matter. If one is playing at liturgy, that is one thing - one doesn't wish to introduce something into the liturgy that would be experienced as overly academic or foreign by the congregation. But, if one is presenting this music in recital or sacred concert, one would wish fully to capture the 'smell' (or as close to it as we can get) of what these works would have been experienced like by their original hearers.

    In the case of chant, there is the matter of period diction of Latin in a given country; also, the use or non-use of kyrie tropes; tempo (very slow); rhythmic (mensural) variation; ornamentation; faburden; and so forth. And, in the case of Couperin's convents mass, we should be hearing a choir or schola of women; and be aware that many masses in the alternatim repertory would have been sung in convents as well as parishes or monasteries.

    I have tried to adapt to all of the above at my recitals in recent years. Just last Eastertide I did 'Attaingnant's' kyrie cunctipotens (early XVIth century) at an Eastertide recital at Walsingham, inserting the historic tropes and singing the verses very slowly, with a French accent, and with a sort of 'Perez'-like vocal tone. The result was quite convincing.

    Of course, it's alright to be satisfied with 'just singing' these verses as we would sing them today. That, at least, gives a taste of the idea and a sense of the original aural and cultural experience; but giving attention to such matters as touched on above adds even more to the sense that one is actually 'there', somewhere in the XVIth or XVIIth century, or in the Chapelle-Royal at Versailles with Louis XIV sitting there, or what have you, singing as 'they' sang and hearing as 'they' heard - or as near to it as modern scholarship can get us.

    (Alas! Most of us, unless we are Hans Davidsson, will have to be satisfied with equal tempered instruments, unless one's organ is so out of tune that it is always in 'mean' tone.)

    In achieving all this a very helpful book is Singing Early Music, edited by Timothy J. McGee - Indiana UP.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen CharlesW
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,818
    The big question is what to do with the Convents Mass, and I shall look forward to any new perspectives. Being one of the true Couperin snobs, I only play from one or the other of the facsimiles these days :-P
  • Ordered! And I strongly endorse MJO’s recommendation of Lois Fyfe Music: perhaps the best church music stockists in this country.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Richard -

    The review has an answer for what to do, alternatim-wise, with the convents' mass. Baxendale recommends the contemporary Mass of St Cecelia (1687), by Paul d'Amance. Another possibility would be one of Henri du Mont's masses. There was quite the fashion for chant-like non-Gregorian masses (plain-chant musical) at this time and numerous are the organ masses written not on a Gregorian cf but in one ton or another. I used du Mont's messe du 6me ton with Gloria of the G. Corrette mass (key of G) on recital last Eastertide and it worked quite well. Since Couperin's convent mass is actually in the key of G, du Mont's mass should work, as well, with it.
    Thanked by 2BruceL Richard Mix
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,000
    Yes! Convents does not have a Gregorian (or even really modal) basis. The Masses that MJO points out are good to use.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,096
    This is great to see. That repertiore is some ofthe most beautiful and worthy thst we have.