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Une Messe Pour La Saint Michel / Godard, Modalis, Et Al

Release Date: 04/05/2005 
Label:  Alpha Productions   Catalog #: 514   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Freddy Eichelberger
Performer:  Freddy EichelbergerMichel Godard
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Vocal Ludus Modalis
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

UNE MESSE POUR LA SAINT-MICHEL Freddy Eichelberger (org); Ludus Modalis; Michel Godard (serpent) ALPHA 514 (75:16 & )

This is a unique example of neo-Gallican chant, though not the only one we have heard. The ensemble sings the Ordinary and Proper chants for the Mass of St. Michael and All the Holy Angels from the Graduel de Poitiers published by Barbier in 1788, certainly one of the last Neo-Gallican books. (Theodore Karp Read more lists a publication bearing the same title page from a different publisher in 1774.) Integral to the performance are the organ improvisations on a historic instrument in Juvigny-sur-Marne, supplying alternate versets of the Kyrie and interludes in the other chants of the Ordinary. The singers are accompanied on the serpent, a wind instrument invented in the 16th century for this purpose, with Godard occasionally ornamenting the chant rather than supporting the melodic line. The neo-Gallican chants are entirely different than the Roman chants of the period, both in melody and (except for the introit) in text. The singers occasionally use chant sur le livre , the form of improvised counterpoint that was practiced at the time. As expected, prominent features of the Mass include an organ offertoire after the chant, an O Salutaris Hostia with organ élévation after the Sanctus, and Domine salvum fac Regem after communion.

The organ was constructed by Jean de Villers for Notre-Dame-en-Vaux in Châlons-sur-Marne in 1663. He died leaving the organ unfinished, so it was completed in 1666 by Jacques Carouge. It was removed to the nearby church in Juvigny in 1791 and suffered repeated alteration for the next 185 years. Only in 1990–94 was the organ completely restored, as far as possible, to its original condition. The Romanesque church itself had to be restored for the security of the instrument.

This is a valuable addition to the short list of neo-Gallican chant recordings. With reference to this subject in the review of Theodore C. Karp’s magisterial treatment of the broader subject of Graduals published between about 1590 and 1890 (30:1), Marcel Pérès’s two CDs were mentioned along with “Lux Aeterna,” a recent CD obtainable only in France. Omitted from that list was Nivers’s Officium Defunctorum on a Polish PolyGram recording issued on CD Accord 17. Another disc that has not come this way is a neo-Gallican Messe Agatange from Toulouse that dates from the 18th century. That recording on Pierre Verany 798032 also uses alternatim organ versets.

The program is well conceived and exquisitely executed. The sound of the organ is brilliant, and the serpent takes its place among the singers without being overbearing. That is not to say that chant of either the Medicean or neo-Gallican period was pleasant to listen to, even if we might find recordings of both genres to be valuable. Tempos were slow, rhythm was severely equalist for the most part, and the elegance of the medieval melodies had been debased. There were good reasons for the modern restoration, even if we have since heard a variety of interpretations of that approach to chant. It was curious to hear an occasional note sung at half the normal duration, exactly as Calvin Bowers did on the CD inserted in Karp’s book. The transcriptions of chants in his second volume showed precisely this note value. Anyone who wants to know more about neo-Gallican chant should try to find copies of all six discs.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

Une Messe pour la Saint-Michel by Freddy Eichelberger
Performer:  Freddy Eichelberger (Organ), Michel Godard (Serpent)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Vocal Ludus Modalis
Period: 20th Century 

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