“Les Maitres du Motet” = SEBASTIEN DE BROSSARD: Miserere mei Deus; Stabat Mater; Ave verum corpus; PIERRE BOUTEILLER: Missa pro Defunctis; ANDRE RAISON: Kyrie de la Messe du Premier Ton; Kyrie de la Messe du Deuxieme Ton – Les Arts Florissants/ Paul Agnew – Harmonia mundi HAF 8905300, 67:05 ****:
Formidable and famously reliable forces take on some not-so-well-known composers in this excellently recorded disc. Agnew, inheriting William Christie’s baby, lets us down not one whit in this superbly sung recital. Brossard (1655-1730) was the son of a poor glassmaker from Lower Normandy who became a priest and studied hard to improve his fledgling lute skills, ended up in Notre Dame (alas, concerning recent events) as the assistant to the Chapel Master. Since 1589 the Protestants had co-opted the cathedral, but it was returned to the Catholics in 1681 and Broussard is appointed first vicar, then Chapel Master, surely one of the most coveted positions in Europe.
He wrote, collected, and published, making one of the greatest musical collections ever assembled, which he leaves to the royal library, himself dying in poverty due to a small pension that he must wait for, even though a suitable amount of fame becomes him. Leaving behind many motets, liturgical compositions, “serious airs”, and even drinking songs, Broussard departs the world impoverished monetarily, but rich in accomplishments, amply proven by these magnificent three pieces recorded here, so close to the contrapuntal wizardry of Charpentier as to be scary.
Bouteiller (c. 1655 – c. 1717) leaves us scant evidence of his life’s story. In 1687 he led the choir at Troyes, only to be dismissed for truancy, brought back later, and dismissed again. He wrote a lot, and everyone seemed to like it, but no one seems to know where it all went. He did meet up with Brossard at one point, and even offered him rights to publish 13 “excellent masses” and the Requiem recorded here. His writing is in the “French style”, meaning five voices, and an amazing sense of textural coloring and contrapuntal mastery. But he remained a wanderer, even singing minor roles with various choruses late in life. Another musical mystery, one to be grappled with and grateful for.
Again, Agnew and LAF are terrific in a disc that will give much pleasure.