French Organ Music Volume 6 - Jacques Boyvin

It is hoped that this selection of suites from Boyvin’s two important livres d’orgue will go some way to redressing the lack of awareness of the quality of Boyvin’s music. It is certainly different from the livres d’orgue of André Raison, François Couperin and Nicolas de Grigny, and it is wonderfully lively and attractive music, especially when heard on this historic organ.

David Ponsford has spent much of his career studying this repertoire, resulting in his book French Organ Music in the Reign of Louis XIV (Cambridge University Press, 2011). The present series of recordings on the most important historical organs in France, including the music of Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers, Louis Couperin, Nicolas-Antoine Lebègue, André Raison, Jacques Boyvin, François Couperin, Nicolas de Grigny, Louis Marchand, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, up to composers of the Revolution such as Balbastre, Beauvarlet Charpentier and Lasceux, is therefore the fruit of many years of research by a seasoned performer whose aim is to combine technical brilliance with intellectual understanding, to bring the music alive with authority and meaning.

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Boyvin is, as David Ponsford rightly observes in his liner-notes, a more or less neglected composer. Born in Paris he received his musical education at the Hôpital des Quinze-Vingts, an institution for the blind, where is father resided and where Jacques held the position of organist from 1663 to 1674. In the latter year he was appointed organist at Rouen Cathedral; he held this post until his death. In 1683 the organ was destroyed during a storm, and between 1686 and 1689 the famous organ builder Robert Clicquot built a new large instrument, which clearly influenced the suites which are Boyvin's only compositions that have come down to us. This instrument has not been preserved, except the case. The organ David Ponsford decided to play in this recording was originally built for Saint-Croix-Saint-Ouen, also in Rouen, not far from the cathedral, by the Scottish-born Guillaume Lesselier (William Lesseler). In 1791 it was purchased by the town of Bolbec, northwest of Rouen, for its newly rebuilt church. The instrument was adapted to contemporary taste during the 19th and early 20th centuries, but in 1997/98 it was restored as far as possible to the state of 1791. It comprises four manuals (Positif, Grand Orgue, Récit, Echo) and pedal. The four manuals are needed for some of the pieces which close the respective suites, mostly with the indication Grand dialogue.

These suites comprise a various number of movements, and many of them include indications of the registers to be used, which is one of the typical features of classical French organ music. We find here titles as récit de cromhorne ou de petite tierce, basse de trompette, dialogue de voix humaine and récit grave de nazar, ou de tierce, ou de cromhorne. The latter offers the organist some alternatives, probably also depending on the possibilities of his instrument. In addition there are pieces with titles as duo and trio, which give the performer more options.

Ponsford, in his extensive liner-notes, explains the different categories of pieces included in these suites, which is very helpful to understand their character. He points out that we find a considerable amount of counterpoint in these suites, but also various dance movements, especially in the duos, such as menuet and gavotte. There are two categories of trios: one with two dessus parts, which have to be played on the manuals, and one with the specific indication avec pédale. It is especially in the récits that we can hear the different registers of the organ. These indications in the score explain why this kind of music is so seldom played outside France. In most countries there are no organs which have the registers to do any justice to what the composers require. This also explains why this repertoire is far lesser known than, for instance, the organ works by Buxtehude and Bach.

That is an additional reason why we should be happy about this project of David Ponsford, who is a specialist in this repertoire, and has written a book on Organ Music in the Reign of Louis XIV (Cambridge, 2011; paperback edition 2016). Once again he shows his understanding of the music and the instruments needed to perform it. I should add that the meantone tuning considerably contributes to the impact of these suites. A piece like the Fugue chromhatique from the Suite du 4e ton (book II) would lose much of its character, if the organ did not have an appropriate tuning. There are many other pieces where this spicy tuning also has a strong impact. Both the playing by Ponsford and the recording are outstanding and no organ aficionado should miss this set of discs. MusicWeb-International

Nimbus Alliance has already released the sixth volume of the "French Organ Music from the Golden Age" collection. An extensive collection recorded by David Ponsford in different French historical organs. The recording was made at the organ of the church of Saint-Michel de Bolbec that was built in 1630-1631 by the Scottish luther William Lesseler. Like most organs, this one also needed a restoration. In 1840, the instrument was restored by the house Daublaine and Callinet under the direction of Felix Danjou. In 1997, a restoration was required by Jean-Loup Boisseau and Bertrand Cattiaux. It goes without saying that it is tuned to 400Hz with an uneven temperament. We can say that this organ is a historical monument, a unique instrument of excellent sound quality. The French composer Jacques Boyvin (1649-1706), despite being still quite unknown, according to various sources, reveals that his music was known in the circle of J.S. Bach, and most likely by Bach himself. Boyvin, who was appointed organist at the cathedral of Rouen in July 1674, is a good composer of organ music, moreover, David Ponsford believes that he was, moreover, a great improviser. Their compositions demand demands that few organs can offer; Boyvin's instructions on the records fit perfectly to the Bolbec organ. Listening to the suites of the Premier et Second organ books, the listener can make a clear idea of ​​how bold the Parisian composer was. His innovative melodies with tonal modulations that escaped the academic tradition, helped create music for a very innovative organ. They are works that bring a lot of musical themes used to structure the sequences with a well-managed counterpoint. David Ponsford, organist, harpsichordist, musicologist and orchestra conductor, is an authority in keyboard music from the 17th and 18th centuries. The English organist offers us a concert full of suggestions that contain an immediate beauty. Núria Serra, (Internet Translation)

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