About this Recording
8.553744 - CLERAMBAULT: Orphee / Leandre et Hero / Sonata Anonima
English  French  German 

Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676-1749)
Soprano Cantatas and Simphonies

Parisian Organist to the King, of the Royal Church of Saint-Cyr and the Parish Church of Saint-Sulpice, died in Paris on 26th October 1749 in the 72nd year of his life, interred at Saint-Sulpice… He left two sons who fill with distinction the positions he held as organist.

Evrard Titon du Tillet: Vies des Musiciens et autres Joueurs d' Instrument du règne de Louis le Grand (Lives of Musicians and Instrumentalists of the Reign of Louis the Great)

The Abbé Ladvocat, scholar of the first half of the eighteenth century, did not hesitate, in order to give still further distinction to the character of Louis-Nicolas Clérambault and increase the respect owed both the man and his art, to stress that the family of this famous musician had been attached to the service of the King since Louis XI (1423-1483). The declaration may rest on slender foundations but shows clearly the great fame that the musician enjoyed. It is true, all the same, that the Clérambault family could pride itself on having been employed as musicians in the royal service for many years. Dominique Clérambault (1644-1704), his father, played in the famous 24 Violins of the King, the Bande des Vingt-quatre Violons also known as the Grande Bande. Having taken over the position of Louis Bruslard in 1670, he kept it until 1681. While this service does not go back to the fifteenth century, it establishes firmly the background from which Louis- Nicolas Clérambault would benefit, rooted in the best sources of French music in the seventeenth century. In fact the Grande Bande played a large part in the development of virtuoso performance in France and was at the forefront of contemporary music at the court of Louis XIV. It was there that the first idea of the suite was conceived, stemming from the linked Airs de Ballet or varied melodies that produced the celebrated form of the French overture. It was there again that the form of the sonata developed, in 1704, a form that would in turn lead to the birth of the symphony.

Strengthened by this innovative spirit that inspired French music from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards, even if the relative dullness of the end of the reign of Louis XIV tended to fix certain traditions, but above all strengthened by a repertoire of forms and methods of performance in which he was brought up by his violinist father, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault completed his musical training with the organists Jean-Baptiste Moreau and André Raison. From the former he acquired a severity of style, the origin of which may doubtless be found in the connection of Jean-Baptiste Moreau to Saint-Cyr, founded by the very devout and austere Madame de Maintenon. There he learned both the art of composing serious vocal works inspired by the work of Racine, then directed towards Jansenism, as well as divertissements, intermèdes and choruses from tragedies, intended for the great Jesuit colleges as well as the Demoiselles de Saint-Cyr. With André Raison he found the continuation of the tradition of Nivers, making use of all the wealth of colourful organ registrations and the taste for rhythmic subtleties that Raison developed in impressive improvisations. Finally, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault shared with Nivers the organ of the royal establishment of Saint-Cyr, the organ that his master Moreau had played since the foundation of the establishment in 1686 and to which Nivers had succeeded. There he supervised the music lessons of the boarders. He was given the official appointment at Saint-Sulpice in 1715, succeeding Nivers, whom he had served as deputy for many years. Finally, he was nominated as organist of the Jacobins of rue Saint Jacques in 1720. From 1697 his position had allowed him to publish Airs, then, in due course, a Livre d' Orgue and a Livre de Clavecin, as well as sonatas and symphonies that put him in the first rank of composers towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV. His fame spread still further with the publication between 1710 and 1726 of his Livres de cantates.

Evrard Titon du Tillet, music chronicler of the Grand Siècle, bears witness to his brilliant career: Clérambault was known for the expert manner in which he played the organ; but what added most to his reputation was his wonderful talent for cantatas, where he excelled; he had the honour of performing them before Louis XIV, when His Majesty heard them with pleasure: this prince had several cantata texts given the composer, which he set to music, and which were performed in the apartment of Madame de Maintenon: it is these that make up the third Book of his Collection. The King was very satisfied with them and appointed him Superintendent of the Private Concerts of Madame de Maintenon.

From then on his career was launched, with Saint- Cyr and the most famous organs, the ear of the court... then the Concert Spirituel. Established in 1725 in order to give concerts of musique de chapelle on the days when the Academie Royale de Musique had time off by reason of religious holidays, the Concert Spirituel from 1727 welcomed cantatas in French suited to the serious nature of the programmes proposed. The cantatas of Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, which could hardly have been suspected of levity, since they were regularly sung at Saint-Cyr, won great success. From 1728 Orphée, Léandre et Héro and La musette were sung several times. The following year Mademoiselle Antier of the Académie Royale de Musique won acclaim when she performed, with her majestic voice, Alphee et Arerhuse and Le Soleil vainqueur des nuages (The Sun, Conqueror of the Clouds), an occasional piece written in 1721 for the recovery of the King's health. In addition to this, every fortnight the composer gave in his house in the rue du Four private concerts that attracted many music-lovers. It was there that the master's sonatas, 'simphonies' and other instrumental compositions were tried out.

If Clérambault's activity as a composer slowed down in the last decades of his life, the brilliance of his reputation did not grow any the less up to the end of the century and his most famous works continued to be performed regularly in various public concerts.

The Cantatas
The Cantatas of Clérambault are in five Books, each containing six or seven Cantatas, of which some are for two and even three voices, with symphonies apart from these five books, there are some other Cantatas for particular occasions.

Evrard Titon du Tillet: Vie des Musiciens et autres Joueurs d' Instrument du règne de Louis le Grand

The cantata was a new form. Its model, Italian in origin, the cantata, was introduced into France at the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like the related form, the sonata, it was at first the preoccupation of a clique of enthusiasts for Italian music, but it soon became French, taking the form of a piece in which recitatives and varied arias presented a brief dramatic situation. Borrowing at first from the language of allegory and lively mime the cheerful imitations of Italian music, this hardly suited the needs of the court. Its success was elsewhere, in the salons, rooms and celebrations of private people of means. The Grandes Nuits de Sceaux devised to distract from bouts of insomnia the Duchesse du Maine marked the height of the form.

With Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, however, the cantata followed another path. It drew sustenance from the grand style of the theatre and acquired an element of heroic morality. Contemporaries were not sparing of their praise. Orphée and Léandre et Héro were quickly accepted as models of the new genre. The alternating structure is more flexible, the daring harmonies and the real depth of feeling expressed in the melody bestowed respectability on a form that up to that time had been purely for entertainment. The cantatas of Louis-Nicolas Clérambault are striking for their expressive qualities but also for the rhythmic boldness borrowed from the Italian. In the arias, such as that of the storm in Léandre et Hero, it is more particularly of Vivaldi that one thinks, when the violence of the elements and of passions are unloosed. Nevertheless the effect is so new that the critic Daquin did not hesitate to declare that Louis-Nicolas Clérambault had found songs and expressions that belong only to him and make him regarded as the only true model.

Suite pour le Clavecin
Clérambault's Livre de clavecin, published in 1702, does not depend on the same source of inspiration. Here it is care for tradition that dominates. Perhaps one should see here in these classical suites, worthy of those invented by the Grande Bande some decades earlier, a kind of tribute to his ageing father. If the form is hardly modern, the style is no mere reproduction of dated conventions and aims at graceful melodies intended as much for concert use as for entertainment. The work starts with a fine 'unmeasured' prelude. This comes from the tradition of Louis Couperin, who saw in this kind of piece, apart from a means of checking the tuning of the instrument, an exercise suitable for 'loosening the fingers'. The prelude, at first entirely improvised, gradually took on a fixed form in the course of the seventeenth century and, under the influence of Louis Couperin, took on the features of a well considered piece, elaborate in structure, which, through its dran1atic intensity, introduces the work and disposes the listener to hear it.

Sonatas
At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, sonata form, whether for one or several instruments, was under the influence of Corelli (1653- 1713) and of François Couperin (1668-1733), allying Italian lyricism with the spirit of France. The sonata has a structure most often of four movements in which the melody is entrusted to the upper part, with a lower accompanying part.

In the same way that he had adopted the Italian cantata, to give it a French existence, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault took an interest in the sonata. There he found a modem echo of the old suites and gave the Italian model his own personal touch, without, however, going as far as he had with the cantata and renewing it. The structure of his compositions follows the Corellian model, varying the form from four to six movements. Nevertheless the influence of Italian music is very widespread and here again Clérambault's style, with its combinations of dance melodies, comes near to the high style of 'French' writing.

A sign of lesser success may be seen in the fact that many sonatas remained in manuscript. Designated on the autographs as simphonia or sonata, they were given, in addition, more literary titles, such as l’Abondance, la Félicité, la Magnifique, l’Impromptu, or enigmatic titles such as l’Anonima. It is particularly in these sonatas that the very structured writing of Louis-Nicolas Clérambault comes to the fore, testimony to his training as an organist. Sometimes the violin melodies seem to wander over a meditative harmonic support; the style of imitation, dear to French organists, that gives the melody the poetry of a line drawing, imparts a particular inner feeling to the slow movements; the fugues finally allow large-scale harmonic movements, always marked by their flexibility. All these sonatas start with slow movements and finish with a lively Allegro or a Gigue. Nevertheless, breaking this rule, the single Chaconne movement of Simphonia V has, in its 230 bars over a repeated bass, a less usual character, lively in feeling, approaching rather writing for the keyboard, a brilliant demonstration of perfect technical mastery and a deep understanding of composition. Yet the general mood of works by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault is one of meditation, surprised, on occasion, by a certain latent ironic amusement.

Jean-Yves Patte
English version Keith Anderson

The Legends of Orpheus and of Hero and Leander

Orpheus, the great musician of Greek legend, was the son of the Muse Calliope, fathered, perhaps, by Apollo, who gave him a lyre with which he could charm beasts and move trees and rocks. The death of his beloved Eurydice, bitten by a snake as she gathered flowers, led Orpheus to attempt to bring her back from the dead by descending to the Underworld, through the power of his music, and pleading with Pluto, the God of the Underworld. He allowed her to follow Orpheus back to the world again, provided that he did not look round at her until their journey was over, Orpheus was unable to resist his doubts as to whether she was following him and looked round to see her, thus losing her for ever.

Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite (Venus) at Sestos, was visited nightly by her lover Leander, who swam the Hellespont from Abydos to reach her, guided by a light that she lit for him. A storm one night extinguished the light and Leander was drowned.
KA

Sandrine Piau
Sandrine Piau began her musical education at the French Radio Choir School, subsequently studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur in Paris and the Versailles Opera Studio, where teachers included William Christie, Rachel Yakar and Rene Jacobs. She has worked with conductors such as Philippe Herreweghe in performances of Bach's Magnificat and the St John and St Matthew Passions; Sigiswald Kuijken in Rameau's Les surprises de I' amour and William Christie in performances and recordings of Rameau's Les Indes galantes and Castor et Pollux, Rossi's Orfeo, Campra's ldoménée and Mozart's Davidde penitente. Sandrine Piau has appeared at such prestigious festivals as those of Salzburg and Aix-en-Provence, and in major venues such as the Theatre du Chatelel and Palais Gamier in Paris, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London's South Bank. Her interests extend beyond the baroque, and she has given recitals of works by Debussy and recorded songs by André Caplet and Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Patrick Cohën-Akenine
The violinist Patrick Cohën-Akenine has won prizes in a number of international competitions, including the Gérard Poulet Competition and the Evian String Quartet Competition. He entered the class of Patrick Bismuth at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was awarded first prize for Baroque violin. His career has brought engagements as a soloist or in chamber music throughout Europe and he has collaborated with many of the leading baroque ensembles in France, including Les Arts Florissants, La Symphonie du Marais, the Concerto Rococo and the Talens Lyriques. Since 1994 he has served as violin soloist for the Concert Spirituel under Hervé Niquet.

Martha Moore
The American violinist Martha Morre studied violin and baroque music at the University of California at Berkeley and the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. She has played with all the major period instrument ensembles in Europe, including the Collegium Vocale, Nederlandse Bachvereniging and Concerto Köln. Since moving to France she has played particularly with French ensembles, such as Les Arts Florissants, Les Talens Lyriques and Les Musiciens du Louvre. With the lutenist Joris Loeff she has recorded the twelve sonatas for violin of Pondolfi-Mealli.

Jocelyn Daubigney
The flautist Jocelyn Daubigney was born in Paris in 1964 and in 1981 and 1982 won two first prizes of the City of Paris. An orchestral player and a soloist, he is a member of the Ensemble Instrumental de France and the Walter Audoli orchestral ensemble. His interest in early music brought study with Pierre Sechet at the Paris Conservatoire, where he was awarded first prize in 1988, and further study at the Brussels Conservatoire under Barthold Kujiken, graduating with distinction. Jocelyn Daubigney has recorded with a number of distinguished baroque ensembles, including Les Arts Florissants, La Grande Ecurie et la Chambre du Roy and the Talens Lyriques.

Alix Verzier
In addition to playing cello continuo with several ensembles such as Les Arts Florissants and the Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, Alix Verzier plays the viola da gamba and gives concerts on both instruments, in repertoire ranging from sixteenth-century viol consort music to nineteenth-century piano trios.

Catherine Arnoux
Catherine Arnoux studied the violin at the Conservatoire National de Musique in Paris, at the same time as learning the viol with her father. For a time she dedicated herself solely to the violin, winning the Premier Prix at the Conservatoire in 1986. After resuming her viol studies with Jerome Hantaï, she won the Gold Medal at the École Nationale de Musique at Cergy-Pontoise.

Blandine Rannou
After study at the Paris Conservatoire, where she won first prizes in harpsichord, chamber music and basso continuo, Blandine Rannou undertook further study at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam with Bob van Asperen, as well as, on occasion, with Gustav Leonhardt. She took second prize in 1992 in the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, when no first prize was awarded, as well as the Belgian Radio and Television Prize and the special audience prize. She is harpsichordist with Il Seminario Musicale, with which she has undertaken concert tours and recordings, and has appeared with a number of other early music ensembles and also as a soloist and chamber music recitalist.

Le Concert Spirituel
The Concert Spirituel was established in 1725 by Anne Danican Philidor (1681-1731) and was the first concert organization in France, specialising in the performance of French Grands Motets, by composers such as Gilles, Campra, Mondonville and Rameau. The concerts were given in the Salle des Cent Suisse in the Palace of the Tui1eries in Paris. They came to an end in 1790 with the French revolution. In 1988 Hervé Niquet, one of the leading specialists in France in baroque music, decided to revive the Concert Spirituel in order to explore again the repertoire of music originally composed for this purpose in the eighteenth century. Since then the Concert Spirituel has given performances in the principal cities and festivals of Europe and has issued a number of recordings that have been acclaimed by the international press.


Close the window