Saturday Chorale: Bouzignac was way ahead of his time

By  | March 5, 2011 | 2 Comments | Filed under: Choral Music

Guillaume Bouzignac was way ahead of his time. Born (probably) in 1587 he packed a lot of composing between then and his death in (probably) 1643. He was born in Saint-Nazaire-d'Aude, in  Languedoc-Roussillon and applied as a boy to study at the Cathedral of St. Juste  in Narbonne, reputedly submitting several original compositions in support of his application. The Cathedral accepted his application and he "graduated" in 1604 aged 17. — The motet "O mors, ero mors tua" ("O death, I will be your death") was his "graduation composition". It's a remarkable piece of music with opening dissonances and suspensions that pop into my mind everytime I hear the technique used in 20th Century compositions*.

After "graduating", St. Juste appointed him as assistant master of music. His subsequent career included a posting at the Church of St. André, Grenoble, a lot of travel in Italy and Spain, and appointments as choirmaster at the Cathedrals of Angoulême, Bourges (where he was ordained as a priest in 1624), Tours and Clermont-Ferrand.

For this week's "Saturday Chorale" I've picked two performances of his setting of "Ave Maria". The first is by the Chœur de Garçons de la Maitrise des Hauts de Seine, the soloist is Arnaud Sourisseau, and the conductor Gaël de Kerret, I love this recording, it's one the pieces of music I listen to de-stress: 

The second is a very different interpretation by the Saint Thomas Aquinas Schola Cantorum, performed in The Old Cathedral in Salamanca, Spain, as part of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Salamanca's New Cathedral.

I discovered this performance pretty much by accident – I saw a link in YouTube's sidebar and thought to myself "who on earth are they"? and clicked. I'm glad I did, they're the resident choir at Saint Thomas Aquinas Church, Diocese of Phoenix, and their performance of this piece was warm, beautiful and completely different to all the others I've heard. Enjoy.


Update: I've added a third performance - a live performance by the Coro Polifonico Musica Nova Città di Nicotera

* PS: (If you like modern choral music and like the idea of an obscure composer of French choral music who died about 360 years ago being way ahead of his time, Amazon have this CD  Bouzignac: Te Deum; Motets. Lovely music and really good performances that, I promise you, will blow your mind - mfi).

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2 Responses to Saturday Chorale: Bouzignac was way ahead of his time

  1. Lucia M. Kim July 2, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Wow, this piece is definitely nouveau! So nouveau that it doesn't sound like a 17th-century melody at all... sounds like a breakaway from the typical style of the time, even to these lay ears. Mark always guides me (all of us ??) into unknown (at least to me) world of music, broadening my limited horizon of tastes. Thanks always and again for that, Mark!

    • markfromireland July 2, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      Ah dear friend, you have just made my day. Bouzignac is very special - I first heard of him via the Petits Chanteurs À La Croix De Bois and thought to myself "What and who on earth is this?" Not very much of his music is available but what there is is very special. Delighted you liked it.


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