Jean-No‘l Marchand. Cantiques spirituels (facsimile edition). Introduction by Thierry Favier. La Musique fran¨aise classique de 1650 à 1800, 5648. Courlay: Fuzeau, 1999. 4 fascicles. [ISMN M-2306-5648-1. FF 204.74 ($35).]
Reviewed by Catherine E. Gordon-Seifert*
2. The Edition
3. The Music
1.1 The year 1999 marked the three-hundredth
anniversary of Jean Racines death, an occasion commemorated around the
world with conferences and other events devoted to performing and discussing
his works. Many of these also included performances of musical settings
of his texts, perhaps the most important of these being his collection
of four Cantiques spirituels.1 Racine based his first and second canticles on the first epistle of Paul,
canticle three on the wisdom of Solomon, and canticle four on various
parts of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The work was commissioned by Louis XIV and
Madame de Maintenon to be set to music for the students at Saint-Cyr,
founded in 1686 by Mme de Maintenon to educate daughters of noblemen.
Racine wrote the poems for Jean-Baptiste Moreau (1656–1733), who was maître
de musique at Saint-Cyr. Moreau, in fact, set canticles one, three,
and four in 1694; a setting of canticle two by Michel-Richard Delalande
was added later. In addition to Moreau and Delalande, other composers
who set the Cantiques to music were Pascal Collasse, Jean-No‘l
Marchand, and Michel Lambert.2 Of these, only the score to Marchands setting of Racines Cantiques
spirituels is easily available to scholars and performers, thanks
to Editions Jean-Marc Fuzeau.
2.1 The facsimile edition of Marchands
manuscript includes the settings of all four Cantiques, each separately
bound, as well as a copy of Racines published text. This edition, like
others published by Fuzeau, begins with a chronological list of biographical
information about the composer aligned with a chronology of important
events and other musical publications from the period. This is followed
by the title page, more specific biographical information about the composer,
a list of his works, and an introduction, given in three languages (French,
English, and German). The commentary, written by Thierry Favier, includes
documented information about Racines original text, other works set to
Racines poems, details concerning Marchands setting, and performance
information. Depending upon the experience of the scholar or performer
with manuscript scores from this period, certain aspects of the facsimile
may be problematic. There is an extensive use of French violin clef (G-1)
as well as C clefs on the first through third lines; the text is not always
easy to read; and the text underlay is frequently unclear. If the words
in places are difficult to decipher, one can refer to the reproduction
of Racines original published text. The musical notes, however, were
copied in a neat hand and are perfectly legible. Those experienced with
reading seventeenth- or eighteenth-century scores will not have any trouble
using this edition.
3.1 Very little is known about Jean-No‘l Marchand (1666–1710). He was not, however, related to the famous harpsichordist, organist, and composer Louis Marchand (1669–1732). J.-N. Marchand belonged to another Marchand family of accomplished musicians and composers.3 He inherited his fathers post of Ordinaire de la Musique de la Chambre at age nine, and by 1686 he was accepted into the royal chapel as a violinist. In 1689 he received the post of organist at Notre Dame in Versailles, where he worked until his death. He was also appointed lutenist to the royal chamber in 1710, one month before he died.4 His few compositions consist primarily of sacred music, but he also wrote a pastorale, La Feinte heureuse, now lost, according to Faviers Introduction (p. 6). The composition dates for most of his works, including his Cantiques, are not known.
3.2 Marchands Cantiques spirituels belonged to an ever-increasing trend at the end of the seventeenth century of setting to music religious texts in the French language (Introduction, p. 8). The Cantiques spirituels composed by Moreau, Delalande, Collasse, and Marchand are, in fact, sacred cantatas.5 Marchands setting, however, differs from the others in its performance requirements. Because the Moreau/Delalande and Collasse works were written for Saint-Cyr, they are chamber pieces, limited to female voices, accompanied by continuo and a few instruments.6 Marchands settings may have been written for performance at Notre Dame in Versailles and require a large orchestra, three vocal soloists, and choir (choral parts, however, may be sung by soloists).7
3.3 Each Cantique involves a different group of performers. The first requires three soloists—soprano, counter-tenor, and bass—and two instrumental parts written for violins (one movement uses two flutes). The second features the same soloists, who are supported by a four- to five-part orchestra (two dessus de violon, haute-contre de violon, taille de violon, and continuo group). The third canticle, written in the first person, is for bass solo, accompanied by continuo and two violin parts. This is the shortest and most unique of the canticle settings because it has a personal tone, most likely reflecting Racines ties to the Jansenists, and is written like a dramatic scene from an opera.8 The final canticle requires the three soloists, choir, and full orchestra.
3.4 Not only is each Cantique different, but within a canticle, Marchand cleverly contrasts instrumental forces with various vocal combinations. Musical forms and genres include airs in binary form, secco and accompanied recitatives, instrumental simphonies and ritornelles, and the apposition of soloist(s) and choir. Marchand sets Racines strophes of the poetry as separate musical numbers. Every strophe, then, is set in a distinctive style. The first canticle, for example, is organized into a series of airs for soprano, counter-tenor, and bass, each singing different stanzas. Some airs are accompanied by two treble instruments, and others by continuo alone. Only one strophe is set as a recitative for bass (with continuo accompaniment), and there are two short choral pieces, the choral finale accompanied by the instrumental ensemble. Instrumental ritornellos for two violins and continuo periodically articulate the vocal pieces. As Favier notes (pp. 8–9) Marchands music borrows from both secular and religious musical traditions: secular in its treatment of the strophes, versification, style of airs, recitatives, and instrumental passages (some in French overture style), and religious in its use of accompanied recitatives, melodic restraint, and juxtaposition of choir and soloists, borrowed from the grand motet.
3.5 The variety of instrumental and vocal forces, forms, and genres in each canticle makes for an intriguing and stimulating musical experience. The score is full of musical images that illustrate and underscore key words in the text with luscious musical sounds. Marchands use of the orchestra is remarkable; the accompanying instruments not only add contrast to the musical form but also provide color to intensify the vocal line. The publication of this beautiful set of works in 1999 appeared just in time to celebrate in music Frances acclaimed author, Jean Racine.
*Catherine E. Gordon-Seifert (email@example.com)
is Assistant Professor of Music at Providence College. Her publications
and presentations include studies of seventeenth-century French airs and
the manuscript parodies of scenes from Lullys operas as political erotica. She is currently working on a book entitled Musical Representations
of Love and Gender in Seventeenth-Century France (1650–1700).
1. Œuvres compl¸tes de Racine, ed. Georges
Forestier (Paris: Gallimard, 1999), 2:1755–7. Racine also wrote interludes
to Esther and Athalie, set by J.-B. Moreau for the students
of Saint-Cyr. See Olivier Rouvi¸re, Jean-No‘l Marchand: Cantiques spirituels
de Jean Racine, Ensemble Almasis, Iakovos Pappas, director (compact
disc booklet, Arion ARN 68467, 1999), 7; and Denise Launay, La Musique
religieuse en France du Concile de Trente à 1804 (Paris: Klincksieck,
2. The Introduction to this facsimile (p. 7) notes
that Racines original enumeration differed from his published version
of the canticles. Canticles one, three, and four (in the published version,
the edition used by composers after Moreau) were originally numbered by
Racine as one, two, and three. In addition to Moreau/Delalande, Collasse,
and Marchand, Michel Lambert was also said to have composed music to Racines
text, but the music has been lost. In 1695, Christophe Ballard also published
some Psaulmes et Cantiques spirituels by a composer named Duhalle,
which included settings of two of Racines cantiques.
3. His father, Jean Marchand (1636–1691), was perhaps
the familys most brilliant representative. It is thought that Jean-Noël,
like his father, studied with Jean-Baptiste Lully (Rouvi¸re, 9).
4. David Fuller in The New Grove Dictionary of
Music and Musicians, 11:655. See also Marcelle Benoit, Une dynastie
de musiciens versaillais: Les Marchand, Recherches sur la musique
fran¨aise classique 1 (1960): 99–129; and 2 (1961–62): 139–158.
5. Launay specifically cites Racines Cantiques
spirituels as giving way to a new musical genre, the sacred cantata,
which stood as rival and adversary to the grand motets by Lully, Du
Mont, and Robert (pp. 455–60; see also 167–272, 324–410, and 453–80)
6. See Laurence Boulay, Les Cantiques spirituels
de Racine mis en musique au XVIIe, XVIIe Si¸cle 34 (1957): 79–92;
and Marie Bert, La Musique à la Maison royale Saint-Louis de Saint-Cyr:
son rôle, sa valeur, Recherches sur la musique fran¨çaise classique
3 (1963): 108. According to Jean Duron, it is possible to perform the
Collasse work in three different ways: (1) solo voice and continuo, (2)
three similar voices, female or male, and continuo, or (3) the same three
soloists contrasted with a choir of similar voices and two treble instruments,
either two violins or traverse flutes (Pascal Collasse: Cantiques spirituels
de Racine, Les Talens Lyriques, dir. Christophe Rousset, [compact
disc booklet, Erato WE 810, 1993]). Collasses score is available on microfilm
of an original print located at the British Library. Only one manuscript
source of Moreaus (and Delalandes) setting of the canticles survives
at the Biblioth¸que nationale de France and is bound with the arms of
Mme de Maintenon. A setting of Delalandes second canticle, along with
the first by Marchand, was recorded on Michel Richard de Lalande: Cantiques
spirituels on texts by Jean Racine, Jean-Marie Leclair Instrumental
Ensemble, dir. Louis Frémaux [Westminster XMN 18792, 1957]).
7. Faviers Introduction characterizes the orchestral
configuration as highly unusual for the period, but it was later to became
the norm for sacred music after 1720 (p. 10). On the Almasis recording
cited above, up to twelve instrumentalists comprise the orchestra: two
flutes, oboe, two dessus de violon, two haute-contre de violons,
and one each of taille de violon, basse de violon, basse
de viole, harpsichord, and organ.
8. According to Racines son Louis, this was the
Kings favorite because he felt a close connection with the words Mon
Dieu quelle guerre cruelle! / Je trouve deux hommes en moi (My God,
what a cruel war! / I am a man divided) (Rouvi¸re, 8.).
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