Notes and Editorial Reviews
Missa Ave maris stella. Missa Exultabunt sancti in gloria
Grover Wilkins, cond; O of New Spain
DORIAN 90903 (72:07)
Francisco Courcelle (1705–78) was born of French parents at the court of Parma, where his father was dancing master to the duke’s daughter Elizabeth until she married the first Bourbon king of Spain (Philip V) in 1714. Francisco became
maestro de capilla
at the court in 1727, and directed the music for the funerals of two dukes in
1727 and 1731. At that point Elizabeth, the heiress as the niece of the last two dukes, gave the duchy of Parma to her son Charles. Two years later, about the time when Charles became king of Naples, Courcelle went to the Spanish court, first as teacher of Elizabeth’s children, soon after as maestro to the royal court. Courcelle remained in this position during the reigns of Philip V, Ferdinand VI, and Charles III (who came from Naples in 1759). He composed 30 masses, many Offices, and at least eight operas.
Grover Wilkins, who wrote the composer’s entry for the current
, has been unearthing the forgotten music of Courcelle and his contemporaries in Spain for 20 years. A decade ago, he recorded a sampling of the music for the Spanish Radio/TV label, a program of a Mass, a Matins responsory, and two works by contemporaries. About the same time, he included two Matins responsories on a Dorian recording of Courcelle’s contemporaries. The two masses heard here, dating from 1750 and 1763 respectively, are fine examples of the Classic style heard in Haydn’s early works. The Gloria and Credo are divided into contrasting movements with none of the textual compression that was briefly observed in Vienna. The two works are characterized as based on hymn tunes, but “Exsultabunt sancti in gloria” is not actually a hymn (only a gradual and an offertory exist on that text).
Wilkins, who works in Dallas and Madrid, recorded both masses at a concert in Dallas after 16 months of concerts focused on Courcelle. The singers and players are expert, making a very impressive sound for the 40-member ensemble. Except for the applause at the end of each Mass, there is no hint of the audience. After Wilkins’s two previous recordings and a recent Glossa disc that includes one of his works, this is the most impressive example of Courcelle’s music that we have. It is worth noting that, while the familiar texts of the Mass are omitted (no loss), the printed notes are ample and need not be downloaded from the label’s Web site. This is highly recommended.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Missa Ave maris stella by Francisco Courcelle
Orchestra of New Spain
Written: 1750; Madrid, Spain
Missa Exultabunt sancti in gloria by Francisco Courcelle
Orchestra of New Spain
Written: 1763; Madrid, Spain
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