Ensemble Organum, Marcel Peres - Notre-Dame De Paris: Mass For Christmas Day

Published Monday 26th November 2018
Ensemble Organum, Marcel Peres - Notre-Dame De Paris: Mass For Christmas Day
Ensemble Organum, Marcel Peres - Notre-Dame De Paris: Mass For Christmas Day

STYLE: Choral
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMO8901480

Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

This collection is a journey back in time. Firstly, it is a re-issue of an album initially released in 1994 so, as they say, caveat emptor. More importantly, this is a musical trip back to the famous cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris as it may have sounded in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our guide is Marcel Peres and his prolific Ensemble Organum, here ably supported by Les Pages de la Chapelle under the direction of Olivier Schneebell, so we are in safe hands. Peres has long specialised in the music of medieval Europe and this collection focuses on a particular moment in time. The Protestant Reformation had taken music into unexpected directions, leading to what we now call the Baroque Period. The Roman Catholic Counter-reformation saw the end of Gregorian chant as a living tradition and in France there was a move to compose in a more decidedly French style with what was called Gallican chant. At first this was a form of musical archaeology with almost forgotten works being found in ancient cathedral libraries but then contemporary composers such as Andre Campa and Michel-Richard de Lalande started to join the conversation. The result was a more polyphonic version of chant. The texts remained Latin but the music is more tuneful with opportunities for organ improvisations, here demonstrated by Marcel Peres on the organ of Houdan, built by Louis-Alexandre Cliquot between 1734 and 1729 which is deemed to be a unique and irreplaceable example of the great early 18th-century Parisian school of organ building. While much of what I have said may sound dryly academic the musicianship on display is first class and listeners whose interests take them back in time to explore styles of worship from antiquity will greatly appreciate this re-release and more general listeners may enjoy both the tunes and the singing.

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