Motets Croisés
Dominique Vellard · Jean-Pierre Leguay

Glossa GCD P32303 2011

Jean-Pierre LEGUAY (1939)
01 - Pater noster   [4:41]

Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
02 - O quam pulchra es   [4:44]

Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
03 - Toccata avanti la Messa della Domenica
04 - Toccata per l'elevatione, Messa degli Apostoli   [3:55]

Jean-Pierre LEGUAY
05 - Alleluia   [4:12]
06 - Alleluia instrumental (improvisation)   [7:49]

Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
07- O Jesu, nomen dulce   [3:27]

08 - Canzon doppo l'epistola, Messa della Madonna   [1:50]

09 - Salve Regina   [3:52]

10 - Canzon quarti toni doppo il post comune, Messa degli Apostoli   [3:14]
11 - Recercar con obligo di cantare la quinta parte, Messa della Madonna   [3:35]

Jean-Pierre LEGUAY
12 - Secundum Matthaeum   [21:07]

Dominique Vellard, tenor
Jean-Pierre Leguay, organ

All works by Girolamo Frescobaldi are taken from Fiori musicali (1632)

Recorded in France, June and October 2004 at
Abbaye Bénédictine de Pradines
organ built in 1999 by Pascal Quoirin
Tracks #1, 5, 6, 12
and at
Collégiale Saint-Jean Baptiste de Roquemaure
details about the organs:

Engineered by Robert Verguet
Mastered by Pierre de Champs (Studio Circé)
Produced by Anne-Marie Vellard
Executive producer: Carlos Céster
2009 MusiContact GmbH


Motets Croisés

I. An existentialist approach...

Nobody can resist the intelligence of the historian; but we think that it does not cover everything.
(Emmanuel Lévinas)

The historically-informed approach has given and continues to give new life to music from the past; in this way the music from the past can belong to - or belong once again to - History with its capital "H", and also to our own "history"; performers, with their welcome musicological erudition, endeavour to decipher, think out and reconstruct the life of those notes at the time of their composition, and through these fascinating encounters, juxtapositions and reconstructions, the past is affirmed as having passed (and with that comes an immense nostalgia, a touching consideration involved in listening; nostalgia for an era that is now passed from which we only retain its culture).

"The poet is the genius of memory; he searches for and finds only that which has been lost", wrote Soren Kierkegaard. But onto this potential search (for what perhaps they have lost), Jean-Pierre Leguay and Dominique Vellard are superimposing here another adventure: that of the innovation of the sense of the sounds which permits one to pass from one culture - one music - to another, without believing that there is - or feeling the sensation of - a rupture. Their adventure, their journey in pursuit of the lost sound (the possible contemporaneousness of the pieces, of the texts from the past and of the listener of today) and of a sense of coming or arriving (a possible contemporaneousness from the texts from the past, Pater noster, for example, and from today's music), is carried out in two directions or two senses: towards the beginning of and on the other side of that hypothetical first sound, by reactivating not (or not only) the sense but the creative force of performance, the power of sounds, in order still to be able to convey meaning (and more so). No worldly, temporal distance seems to be interposing itself between the performers and the music performed; no worldly, temporal distance or a spiritual one enclosed within a text, such as Pater noster, written to a music which is very current for us (2001) and a listener who may be neither religious nor Christian.

The listener may easily perhaps manage to erase the differences between the musical periods, the styles and the works on this disc. Alternatively, the overlapping of works from different eras is, in an ambiguous way, producing one overall time, one tempo, which dilutes the possible religious and aesthetical frontiers... For these performers the past world of the early compositions is neither a refuge or a comfort; and if in their adventure they reveal to us some treasures from a past which is yet older, or of a more remote present, more fabulous still than our memory or our imagination allow, we understand then that the performers' function is not just "reproductive" but always a productive one.

II. Motets croisés, an intertextual listening

One letter in common suffices in order that two words cease to be ignored.
(Edmond Jabès)

... and perhaps one common interpreter is sufficient so that many composers appear to be conversing, to be coexisting.

There comes a point in a musician's life where the desire for a musical encounter may be frustrated by the absence of a common repertory or by the aesthetical distance that different traditions of interpretation of music from the past establish. Some years ago, I had the good fortune to hear Jean-Pierre Leguay improvising on the choir organ of Notre-Dame in Paris following on from a performance of the Messe by Machaut just concluded by my ensemble. Fascinated by what I was hearing, I had the curious impression that Jean-Pierre was giving back - with completely different means to ours - the same essence of what is transmitted by the Messe. And that day our joint desire to work together commenced. Initially the project consisted in putting together works from the 17th century (motets and organ works), substantial medieval monodies and compositions and improvisations by Jean-Pierre at the organ. At the outset of our work together, I made a suggestion to Jean-Pierre that he might write a petit motet echoing the motets from the 17th century and making the link with his instrumental music. This petit motet turned into... Secundum Matthaeum! The consequence of this made both of us clearly aware of the confrontation that was involved in two musical routes, which at first sight are very distant from each other, but with both of them supported in a desire to find, in very different musical forms, an intensity and a profundity of expression.
(Dominique Vellard)

Motets croisés, crossword puzzles or wordplay, etymological cross-referencing, all this invites an intertextual approach to listening, where each work, each composer, on this disc, might exist (up to a certain point) only in relation to the other works, the other composers. To the notion of these motets enmeshed in a puzzle, is added a kind of multiple mirror-imaging mise en abîme (as in a painting within a painting) by the fact that one of the composers on this disc is one of the performers: Jean-Pierre Leguay who, in his compositions, draws his inspiration from the other performer, Dominique Vellard - the founder of the Ensemble Gilles Binchois - who is, in his turn, and in other circumstances, a composer and builder of bridges towards other musical worlds, from the karmic India of Aruna Sairam through to the Breton song of Yann-Fañch Kemener. There is some kind of searching implicit in the attitude of these two musicians: perhaps a double pursuit, one oriented towards the external, towards dialogue, the other towards the internal.., but perhaps they are inseparably linked, perhaps this is only a question of the one and same movement...

Whilst it is a song of confidence and humility, the text for the Secundum Matthaeum (from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew) does not deny the tribulations of our existence: their tormenting heaviness, their obsessive tyranny, their destructive and sometimes fatal cruelty. Far from recommending a smugly-complacent game of wait-and-see, this text demands that we engage ourselves fully whilst cleansing ourselves from all that is foreign to the source and to the intended goal: "Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God's saving justice".

Sometimes, unfathomable upheavals ravage us, divest us of everything and above all from ourselves; everything crumbles, no hope remains. But sometimes also an encounter with a text can take place, which allows us to get back (metaphorically) into the saddle, to recover strength, to revive and reawaken.

Through its tone colours and the twists and turns of its plasticity and malleability, the voice is here preponderant. In turn, its utterance comes within a limited range, evoking psalmody, soaring in the effusion of ascending currents, becoming more tonic; then, with vehemence, it emphasizes the requirement of the discourse and the force of the brilliant words. The gradation of the runs culminates in the
jubilus for solo voice, on the final syllable of justitiam, that justice which we have to try and grasp above all other things.

The organ, such an admirable receptacle for producing harmony, supports, sustains and colours the voice. I have opted for an extremely reduced choice of stops: an 8' Bourdon for the greater part of the work, a 4' Flute during two decorative parentheses and both stops coupled (or an 8' Foundation stop) for the magnificence of Solomon, for the text concerning the
lilia agri and for the admonition. At the close, and by way of suggesting meditation, the voice and the harmonic components of the organ peacefully step aside to allow for the sound of the interval of the fifth to emerge. In a discrete manner this fifth replies in echo to the outcome of the jubilus.

I have long held a fascination for Monteverdi and for Schütz, who on certain days and with an astounding economy of means, bring us alongside two shores, which makes us feel how keenly they belong to what we would describe as crucial or essential. Monteverdi, Schütz, St Matthew and some others, are all looking together in the same direction.

During all the time of the composition, I was inwardly hearing the clear, intensely radiant voice of Dominique Vellard, to whom I dedicate this work as a token of my friendship and admiration.

(Jean-Pierre Leguay)

From the use of the interval of the fifth in the Secundum Matthaeum to its echoes in Schütz (and vice versa), from the delightful gliding dissonances of Monteverdi to the fall on malo in Pater noster on the disquieting tritone (the diabolus in musica), from the intoxication of the Alléluia-s by Leguay to rustic and lively jubilation of the two canzone-fiori by Frescobaldi for the Messa della Madonna and the Messa degli Apostoli, from one state of serenity (once again, the admirable Pater noster of Leguay) to another (the Toccata per l'elevatione, the Recercar), this disc replaces or substitutes the classical, chronological form of listening - that of the pawn on the chessboard and its movement square by square - with other possible moves: diagonally like the bishop, sideways like the castle, in a variety of directions like the queen, jumping like the knight upon his horse, in the style of Georges Perec (in his La vie mode d'emploi or "Life: A User's Manual") or Julio Cortázar (in his Rayuela or "Hopscotch"), including - in an uncertain manner - the imitation of the staggering, unsteady movement of the king as he confusedly retraces his steps. This is listening as a harvesting of sounds, without beginning.., and without end...

Within these possible forms of listening, these coexistences, these intertextual relationships, which rub out the boundaries between one composer and another, between one era and another, within those listenings which spatialize, stratify, energize and liberate the pieces from their eventual fossilization, within those recollections of one work intruding into another, arises something like a question: Are you dead Frescobaldi? And you Monteverdi; you Schütz? And they reply to us: I do not know, I do not know, I really do not know...

III. A form of listening both intimate and delightful honey, since it is good; honey that drips from the comb is sweet to the taste.

The nature of religious sentiments, rather like that of the feeling of love, finds its preferred terrain in monody.

Vocal and instrumental grands
motets (in their polychoral form, for example), fit ideally with the expression of splendour, of grandeur and even of power, whereas the petit motet is ideal for evoking intimacy, personal devotion, closeness, lyrical discourse.

With what delight and pleasure does Monteverdi (and Schütz after him) make use of accompanied monody to get very close to the profound sentiment contained in the text!

The composer offers to the word the opportunity of revealing its most intimate and poetic sense. In this, he is supported as much by the word's semantic value as by its intrinsic musicality.

Accompanied monody, at the beginning of the 17th century, freed from the demands imposed by counterpoint, allows for the unconstrained projection of the Latin phrase while the prosody determines the musical rhythm which can then be liberated from the
tactus, from the regular beat. However, that monody does not hesitate to maintain relations with the basso continuo which can then emphasize, by a skilful interplay of dissonances, of chromaticisms and contrapuntal sequences, the expression of tensions or intense emotions contained within the text. To the tenderness, to the sensuality contained with the texts - such as those of the Song of Songs - are answered freeness of vocality, floridity of ornamentation, all devoted to the "flavour" of the text.
(Dominique Vellard)

IV. A form of listening in the horizons of the sound

A dialogue is established only among some tone colours, between the joy of the fingers on the skin of the sound and its shimmering reflection. The bird works the breeze, playing with its subtle force. Frescobaldi catches the horizons of sound and inhabits them. And both of them, uttering their praises, cause my ear and my impetus to rejoice.
(Jean-Pierre Leguay: Text on the improvised Alléluia)

The improvisation by Jean-Pierre Leguay (Alléluia), his compositions (Secundum Matthaeum, Pater noster, Alléluia), his economical use of the organ registers, "coloured, sweet, agile, singing, blooming through a strongly-buoyant and serenely calm acoustic...", even the style of his commentaries upon the works, are written in that French tradition which goes back to the oblique harmonies of the lutenists and continues with Fauré, Debussy, Messiaen, musicians who perceived in reaching, between the notes and around the chords, the Debussyan "naked flesh of emotion"

Jean-Pierre Leguay does not proceed by the via di porte (as in painting) but by the via di levare (as in sculpture), not by adding but by taking away, by lightening each indistinct wave, every to-ing and fro-ing, each movement of ebb and flow in the music, taking away more and more material from each passage; each phrase is thinned out as it is being developed, is made lighter before disappearing, while "the unreal fragrances of Frescobaldi's music descend in slow curls in the shadowy light of the nave" (Adelaïde de Place)... Lulled by those two opposing movements, the listener of the Motets croisés inhabits that frontier of the frontiers, in that imperceptible boundary separating that which is from that which is no longer... And the music becomes soft and new, hazily veiled or discreet, and one does not recognise that long-time held back sob (perhaps since childhood) that threatens breaking the unballasted contemplation of reality.

Pierre Élie Mamou
Translated by Mark Wiggins