|Le Parlement de Musique|
Martin Gester, artistic director
Why a ‘Parliament of Music’?
A place of encounters and confrontations, at the crossroads of cultures, of voice and instrument; a spirit of discovery; rigorous performing practice, at once informed and enthusiastic: these were the ideas Martin Gester sought to encapsulate in the name of his ensemble, a modern transposition of the brilliant academies of the Renaissance, a sparkling meeting of talents around a specific project. And that project is to recapture the Baroque spirit and sound in all their richness and exoticism in order to give them a new resonance for our time.
From Charpentier to Rameau, from Monteverdi to Porpora, from Schütz to Mozart, Le Parlement de Musique illustrates the art of music in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, displaying well-known and neglected facets alike, confronting and calling into question genres and styles, forging anew the lost links between art and popular musics, between music, dance and theatre, between the Baroque of the Latin countries and its forms of expression in northern Europe.
In twenty years of existence, with the aid of musicologists from a variety of backgrounds, it has revealed to the public works by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Sébastien de Brossard, Michel-Richard de Lalande, Jacques-Antoine Denoyé and Samuel Capricornus, and oratorios by Carissimi, Caldara (La conversione di Clodoveo, L’Annunziata) and Alessandro Scarlatti (Lamentations, La Giuditta). It has made one of the most award-laden recordings in history, an anonymous St Matthew Passion rediscovered in Uppsala University Library (winner of the Diapason d’Or of the year, the Grand Prix du Disque Lyrique and the Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros, among others), and given innumerable modern premieres of Baroque works.
Extending its activity to the pre-Classical and Classical periods and the vocal repertoire of Mozart’s time, it has given, in the company of choirs like the Maîtrise de Bretagne and Les Chantres de la Chapelle de Versailles, the oratorios of the great masters (Bach’s St John Passion and Christmas Oratorio; Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo, La Resurrezione, and Messiah; CDs and DVDs of Charpentier’s Te Deum – often mentioned as a benchmark recording – Leçons de Ténèbres, psalms & motets) and motets and masses by C. P. E. Bach, Joseph and Michael Haydn, and Mozart. Today, Le Parlement de Musique effortlessly alternates between large and small formations and explores all the diverse expressions of Baroque vocal music, from motet and cantata to opera, often in streamlined, stylised forms at the point of intersection between concert and stage (Charpentier: Pastorale de Noël, La Descente d’Orphée; Handel: Apollo e Dafne; French cantatas; ‘Scenes from operas circa 1780’ by Piccinni, Sacchini, Gossec, J. C. Bach, etc.).
Highly original projects appear at regular intervals in the ensemble’s programmes: after ‘Mass in Salzburg’, a concertante reconstruction centring on Mozart’s ‘Coronation’ Mass, Gualtiero Dazzi’s Lichtzwang (settings of Paul Celan interspersed with Scarlatti’s Lamentations), and ‘Haydn/Folk’, a programme exploring the relations between court and popular music in the output of the great Austrian composer, and a collaboration with the composer Anthony Fiumara on a work designed to be performed in tandem with Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres (Utrecht Festival, 2010), it is currently working on a commission to a composer for a work to be performed with pieces by Monteverdi.
Coming soon . . .Le Parlement de Musique is at present pursuing its investigation of the very rich but little-known concertante repertoire of the Venetian ospedali, begun some years ago. After G. B. Bassani (Vespers, winner of the Prize of the Fondazione Cini of Venice), Vivaldi, J. A. Hasse, Jommelli and Latilla (many of these works previously unpublished), it is the turn of Nicola Porpora’s Concertato Vespers for the Assumption of 1744, written for the female voices and orchestra of the Ospedaletto. Concertato Vespers by Cavalli are in preparation for 2013.
In the company of outstanding vocal talents on today’s international Baroque scene, the ensemble explores the world of the Baroque cantata (the Scarlattis, Handel, Clérambault, Montéclair, Rameau) framed by instrumental pieces. A special penchant for the vocal output of Alessandro Scarlatti has led it regularly to perform his Lamentations and motets for Holy Week in a variety of contexts. A programme entitled ‘Heroines’ will offer a series of tragic portraits by such composers as Monteverdi (Lamento d’Arianna), Handel (Armida abbandonnata), and Haydn (Arianna a Naxos), alternating with sacred ‘parodies’ of the same music. Large-scale programmes will juxtapose such as emblematic works as the Magnificat settings of J. S. and C. P. E. Bach and the settings of the Stabat Mater by A. Scarlatti and Pergolesi.
Several programmes will be presented on the theme of ‘War and Peace’ (including works by Montéclair, Charpentier and Handel) to mark the tercentenary of the Peace of Utrecht (1713). Also in preparation are a concertante programme built around Monteverdi’s Combattimento, and performances of Concertato Vespers for St Mark’s by Cavalli.
Instrumental transpositions – focus on the keyboardInstrumental transpositions – focus on the keyboard
Around the nucleus of Martin Gester (organ and harpsichord) and Aline Zylberajch (harpsichord and fortepiano), Le Parlement de Musique presents the keyboard surrounded by other instruments, transposing the experience of the vocal soloist into the domain of instrumental performance – the same experience that inspired the concertante works of Handel, Rameau and Mozart and permeates the style of the French Baroque organ composers.
Notable examples of this type of programme-building have been Couperin’s Concerts Royaux (recorded for Accord), Rameau’s Pièces de Clavecin en concert, concertos by Bach and Telemann, organ concertos by Handel, Haydn and Mozart, and the Livres d’orgue of Nicolas de Grigny and François Couperin alternating with vocal music.
Génération Baroque, a showcase for young talents
Le Parlement de Musique has opened its own vocal and orchestral studio, a training centre which aims to spot and showcase young talents in the ascending phase of their career. Since 1995, a dozen sessions devoted to oratorios or operas (including Scarlatti’s La Giuditta, Charpentier’s Histoires sacrées, Handel’s Alcina, Haydn’s L’infedeltà delusa, and Porpora’s Vespers) have given valuable experience to artists now well established in their profession, some of them enjoying dazzling careers. After a particularly brilliant 2011 session in France and Poland focusing on Handel’s Acis and Galatea, the 2012 session, currently in gestation, will explore the seventeenth-century repertory of biblical oratorios as a preparatory workshop to future productions by Le Parlement de Musique.
Le Parlement de Musique has recorded some forty CDs and two DVDs. After making CDs for Opus 111, Accord, Assai, and the Tempéraments series of Radio France/Aisne, it now records for Ambronay (distribution Harmonia Mundi), with the Venetian Vespers of Nicola Porpora released in March 2012, and K617, which released Le Retour de la Paix (cantatas by Montéclair and Clérambault) in autumn 2011.
In its activities, Le Parlement de Musique can count on partnerships with the City of Strasbourg, the Alsace Region, the Bas-Rhin Département, and the French Ministry of Culture.