Berlioz Historical Brass with the King's Chapel Choir
October 19, 2003, Boston, King's Chapel Concert Series
Premiere Marche (1814) Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842
Alleluia anonymous, 18th century
Credo (1669) Henri Du Mont (1610-1684)
O Salutaris (1807) Abbe Nicholas Roze (1745-1819)
Duet (1812) Roze
Domine Salvum (1807) Roze
O Ruddier than the Cherry (1718) George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)
Duet (1815) Alexandre Hardy (fl. 1793-1815)
Excerpts from Messe solennelle (1824) Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
Introduction--Kyrie; Gloria; O Salutaris; Agnus Dei; Domine Salvum
Les mot de Berlioz (2000) Clifford Bevan (b. 1934)
Berlioz Historical Brass: Jay Krush (ophicleide) Ben Peck (buccin) Doug Yeo (serpent) Suzanne Nelsen, bassoon (guest artist)
Première Marche (1814), Luigi Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), Italian composer, theorist, and director of the Paris Conservatoire, is perhaps best known for his operas and C minor Requiem. He also wrote many masses and orchestral compositions as well as numerous military marches for harmonie (small wind ensembles). This march was one of six composed in 1814 for a Prussian regiment then occupying and was most likely intended for officers' entertainment rather than for outdoor, processional use.
Cherubini was director of the Paris Conservatoire when Berlioz first began his serious studies of music. In his memoirs, Berlioz portrayed Cherubini as a personal Nemesis. At their--first meeting Cherubini chased Berlioz around the Conservatoire library for entering through the wrong door. Berlioz was convinced that Cherubini was deeply resentful when the government commissioned him to write a Requiem in the 1830s, as it had been customary to perform Cherubini's works at grand state occasions.
So it is somewhat ironic that today's performance begins with Cherubini's march. Originally scored for trumpet, three horns, and serpent, Berlioz Historical Brass takes some delight in altering and reducing the work, making up for the slights (real and imagined) Berlioz had to endure.
Alleluia, anon, 18 th century
Few instruments are able to identify their birthplace, birthdate, and lineage. The serpent is among these few, having been born in Auxerre ( Burgundy ), France, in 1590. The father, in this instance, was actually a canon, Edmé Guillaume, who designed an instrument to bring vitality and zest to plainchant, a role the serpent fulfilled for well over 250 years. This Alleluia, taken from a choirbook housed at the Cathedral of Auxerre, represents 18 th century neo-Gallican chant (in contrast to Gregorian chant) and has been realized by Marcel Pérès according to a common improvisatory practice, chant sur le livre (chant by the book).
Sapientia denudabit absconsa sua illi
Et thesaurisabit super illum scientiam
Et intellectum justitiae.
Alleluia. (Sirach 4)
Wisdom pours out its secrets upon him
and heaps its treasures of knowledge upon him
and the understanding of righteousness.
Credo, Henri Du Mont (1669)
The Messes Royales of Henri Du Mont (1610-1684) enjoyed great popularity during his time and were performed throughout the 18 th and 19 th centuries. In fact, Canon Galpin (of Galpin Society fame) reported hearing one of these monophonic masses, with serpent accompaniment, in a provincial French church as late as the 1920s. Peter Wilton, British chant scholar and Director of Music of the Gregorian Association, was commissioned by Berlioz Historical Brass to realize a performance edition of the first Messe Royale in the chant sur le livre style. The Credo is adapted from serpentist Jean-Baptise Métoyen's early 19 th century treatise, Recueil de chants d'eglise (1810). Du Mont is also credited with creating the model for the Grand Motet; motets became the principal form of sacred music in French Baroque music due to Louis XIV's dislike of High Mass.
O salutaris (1807), Abbé Nicholas Roze
Roze (1745-1819), serpentist, composer, and first librarian of the Paris Conservatoire (a position Berlioz held from 1839, after Cherubini had denied him a professorship at the Conservatorie), prepared a treatise on chant, Méthode de plain-chant , appearing in Paris ca 1807. This O salutaris is taken from his treatise and represents another example of measured chant in the neo-Gallican tradition.
O salutaris hostia
Quae coeli pandas ostium,
Bella premunt hostilia.
Da robur; fer auxilium.
O life-giving host
That opens the door of heaven
Hostile forces are near at hand
Give strength; bring assistance.
Duet, Nicholas Roze (1812)
This brief instrumental duet is taken from the Paris Conservatoire's Methode de Serpent, compiled by Roze, Gossec, Ozi and others in 1812, and serving as the most popular serpent treatise of the period. The Conservatoire, established in 1795, trained musicians for military bands and employed six full-time serpent professors with an additional eight serpentists serving as lecturers and performers. At any one time, 60 serpent students were enrolled. The Duet is included in this evening 's program to note the strong military tradition of both the serpent and ophicleide (keyed serpent).
Domine Salvum (1807), Nicholas Roze
This Domine Salvum is taken from Roze's Méthode de plain-chant (ca 1807). Scored for three voices, the setting is one of the earliest with a separately-designated serpent part. The Domine Salvum was used as a responsory at the end of church services, similar to the following responsory which, in the Anglican liturgy, is used at Matins and at Evensong after the creed and the second Palernoster and before the collects:
O Lord, save the Queen.
And mercifully hear us when we all upon thee.
Curiously, the King James Version is quite different:
Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call.
The Domine Salvum was customarily sung on Sunday at Matins in Old Regime France (i.e., before 1789). There was a Gregorian plainchant for that psalm, so it would be a stretch to call it a "royal anthem." Many French composers wrote motets for the verses. It was also customary for composers to include the responsory as a movement when setting the Mass, as did Berlioz in his Messe solennelle.
Under Napoleon the responsory was changed to "Domine fac salvum imperatorem," and then back to "regem" in 1814, to "regem Philippum" in 1830 (lest the Lord be confused about which king to save), then to "rem publicam" in 1848, and back to "imperatorem" in 1852. Charles Gounod composed a march to the words for Napoleon III
Domine, salvum fac regem nostrum
Et exaudi nos in die
Qua invocaverimus te. (Psalm 20:10 )
O Lord, protect our king
and hear us on this day
when we have called to you.
O Ruddier Than the Cherry (1718), George Frederic Handel
"O Ruddier Than the Cherry" from Acis and Galatea was a great favorite of English ophicleidists during the mid-to-late 19th Century. After its opening recitative section the setting becomes a showpiece for the virtuosity of the soloist and was performed by one of the leading English ophicleidists, Samuel Hughes, at Covent Garden to great acclaim by many in attendance including George Bernard Shaw.
Duet (1815), Alexandre Hardy
Relatively little is known of Alexandre Hardy, bassoonist and serpentist, who served as professor at the Paris Conservatoire from its founding until 1800. When Hardy published his serpent treatise, c. 1815, he referred to himself as professor of music and serpent, suggesting that his career continued after departing from the Conservatoire. This method was intended more for church serpentists than for the typical Paris Conservatoire bandsmen and includes many of the finest duets written for the instrument.
Excerpts from Messe solennelle (1824), Hector Berlioz
Berlioz went to Paris in October, 1821, to study medicine, but quickly got involved with the exciting music scene there. This was part of an on-going conflict with this father who wanted Hector to follow in his own footsteps and become a doctor, although the young Berlioz had already shown great musical promise as a teenager. Against his father's wishes, Berlioz started formal musical studies in 1822 with Lesueur.
In his memoirs, Berlioz wrote "M. Masson, choirmaster at the church of Saint-Roch, suggested that I write a solemn Mass; he would get it performed in the church . . . . We should have an orchestra of a hundred picked musicians, and an even larger choir which would rehearse for a month . . . . Full of zeal, I set to work on my Mass . . . On the day [Dec. 27, 1824] of the full rehearsal our 'huge forces' assembled and proved to consist of a chorus of twenty (fifteen tenors and five basses), a dozen choirboys, nine violins, a viola, an oboe, a horn and a bassoon. . . . After a few moments a halt had to be called . . . All was confusion, I suffered the torments of a damned; and my long-cherished vision of a full orchestra performance had, for the moment, to be abandoned."
Berlioz went straight back to work, revising large parts of the Mass, and this time he made sure to copy all the parts himself to avoid another catastrophe. When the revised score was completed, he faced a new set of obstacles. He figured it would be all too naïve to rely on M. Masson's "huge forces" again, but in order to pay for a performance with trained musicians, he needed to raise the considerable sum of 1,200 francs. He finally ran into an old friend, Augustin de Pons, who lent Berlioz the money, and so the Mass was finally performed at Saint-Roch on July 10, 1825 . The performance, conducted by Valentino with Berlioz himself playing the tam-tam, was a success and a critical event for Berlioz since this was his first opportunity to hear a large-scale work of his own and because the event brought his name before the public and the press.
The mass was performed one more time, on November 22, 1827, this time at Saint-Eustache with Berlioz himself conducting, the start of an illustrious career as a conductor that later took him to many countries in Europe.
At this point Berlioz again reviewed the score of his Mass and, as was the case with most of his early works, found it unacceptable. He promptly burned the entire score and parts, except for the Resurrexit movement, which he later revised and performed at subsequent concerts. Berlioz, as was his custom, used several themes from the Messe solennelle in his later works; bit can be found in the Symphonie Fantastique, the Requiem, the Te Deum, and the opera Benvenuto Cellini.
The Messe solennelle was considered lost for over 160 years, until 1992 when an Antwerp school teacher came across a manuscript in an organ gallery. It had apparently been given to a Belgian violinist (possibly in lieu of a fee) after the 1827 performance. After the violinist's death the score ended up in the church where his brother was the music director--and there it had languished undiscovered.
The entire Mass is approximately 50 minutes long. At today's performance, the first two and final three movements will be heard.
Les mots de Berlioz (2000) (world premiere performance) Clifford Bevan
Les mots du Berlioz (The Words of Berlioz), commissioned by Berlioz Historical Brass for performance during the Berlioz Bicentennial , features the three low brass instruments scored by Berlioz in his Messe solonnelle (1824): buccin, ophicleide, and serpent. To these, Clifford Bevan has added a bassoon, an instrument often used to double the serpent, to complete a low voice quartet. Text is taken from Berlioz's description of the mass's premiere performance. The composer writes:
"This work is a tribute to Berlioz, a composer I greatly admire for many reasons. Unlike him, I am not inclined to attempt the impossible, and while aspiring to create a well-crafted composition, I have not in any way sought to match the master.
After the first performance of his Messe solennelle in Paris on 10 July 1825, the twenty-one-year-old composer wrote to Albert Du Boys, a law student friend from Grenoble (not far from Berlioz's home town) whom he had met in his own early student days in Paris . Du Boys was interested in music and literature; Berlioz later set two of his poems to music. Through Du Boys' connexions, Berlioz obtained permission from the Head of the Department of the Arts to use the Opera orchestra in the performance (at the composer's expense), so Duy Boys had several reasons for wishing to hear an account of it. When Berlioz wrote to him, ten days later, he was still in a state of high excitement, and this is reflected in the style and content of his letter. Les mots de Berlioz is a setting of about one-fifth of Berlioz's communication.
In his Messe solennelle , Berlioz used several themes familiar to modern audiences as a result of his having used them again in later works. One of these, heard in the "Gratias" of the Messe , was utilized in the "Scene aux champs" of the Symphonie fantastique. I have used the idée fixe, which appears in every movement of the Symphonie, as one of the two main themes of Les mots de Berlioz . The other theme, which is prominent in the Symphonie but does not appear in the Messe , is the plainchant Dies Irae.
Elsewhere there are references to styles of melody, characteristic rhythms, textures and harmonies which are aimed at keeping in the listener's mind an awareness of Berlioz's presence, but there are no other direct quotations (so far as I know). To avoid the impression of Berlioz pastiche, I have been anxious to place his own music in an historic context.
For example, although the voicing of the opening chords of Les mots is a direct reference to his experimental use of flutes to strengthen the high harmonics of trombone pedal notes in the "Agnus dei" of the Grande messe des morts, the second choir is characteristic of Poulenc and other early twentieth-century French composers.
Towards the end of the work, the choir is instructed to declaim, rather than sing, a style of enunciation favoured by Racine and other dramatists which strongly influenced not only the presentation of early French opera but also later composers like Stravinsky (Perséphone) and Honegger (Le roi David)." Clifford Bevan, Winchester, Hampshire
I think my Mass has caused a sensation; above all, the powerful movements such as the Kyrie, the Crucifixus, the Iterum Venturus, the Domine Salvum, the Sanctus.
In the Iterum Venturus, after all the trumpets and trombones in the world had announced the Day of Judgment, the terrified chorus of humans was heard; O God! I swam on that stormy sea, I drank in those waves of horror; I would not have given anyone else the task of bombarding my listeners, and having announced to the wicked, through a final broadside of brass, that the moment for tears and the gnashing of teeth had arrived, I hit the tam-tam so hard that the whole church shook.
It was not my fault if the ladies, in particular, did not think it was the end of the world.
H. Berlioz, Paris, 20 July 1825
This premiere was made possible by a generous donation
from the late Dr. John B. Hawley of Columbia, SC.