FIOCCO: Missa Solemnis / Ave Maria / Homo Quidam
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Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741)
Joseph-Hector Fiocco was born in 1703, the eighth-born child of the Venetian composer Pietro Antonio Fiocco. His father, who was born about 1650 in Venice, had settled in Brussels by 1682, when he married Jeanne de Laetre. A year after the death of his wife in 1691 he married Jeanne-Françoise Deudon, with whom he had eleven children, in addition to three that his first wife had borne him. He held various important musical posts, including that of master of the ducal chapel and master of music of the church of Notre Dame du Sablon and the electoral court chapel, and co-director of the Opéra du Quai du Foin. His son Joseph-Hector became sous-maître in the court chapel in 1729 or 1730, under his half brother Jean-Joseph, who had succeeded their father on the latters death in 1714. In 1726 Joseph-Hector married Marie-Caroline Dujardin with whom he had two children. He resigned from his post in Brussels on 13th August 1731 to succeed Willem De Fesch as sangmeester at Antwerp Cathedral. A few years later, in 1737, he returned to Brussels to become master at the collegiate church of St Michael and St Gudule, a position which had become vacant after the death of Pierre-Hercule Bréhy. He held this position until his death in 1741 at the age of 38.
Most of the manuscripts of Fioccos compositions are preserved in the Albertina library and the library of Brussels Conservatoire. His work consists mainly of vocal-instrumental sacred music, masses, motets and leçons de ténèbres. His harpsichord compositions, dedicated to the Duke of Arenberg, were published in Brussels in 1730 as his Opus 1.
The manuscripts of the individual parts of both the Missa solemnis and the motets Ave Maria and Homo quidam, can be found in the collection of A.R.D. Van Den Boom, in the library of the Brussels Conservatoire under the following reference numbers 33.780, 33.784 and 33.792. When transcribing the individual parts into the full score I kept as closely as I could to the original manuscripts. By comparing similar passages in the various parts I corrected some minor inaccuracies.
Stylistically, the compositions of Fiocco show characteristics of the galant style, in which French and Italian influences are mingled with his favourite and typically Flemish imitational and contrapuntal writing. His interest in Lullys operatic music and Couperins harpsichord compositions can be found reflected in the use of dance rhythms and the extended use of ornaments in the solo airs, mordents, appoggiaturas and coulements de tierce. The duets and trios for soloists in alternation with the choir also recall Charpentier and Campra. On the other hand, the fluency of his melodies betrays his Italian origin, as does his treatment of the string parts with their repeated notes, scale figures and broken chords, which all clearly bear the mark of Vivaldi. The use of imitation and fugal writing, especially in choral and ensemble passages, is clearly rooted in the Flemish polyphonic tradition. Sometimes the contrapuntal melodic lines dominate the harmony, which results in harsh dissonances. His experiments with superimposing chords of the sixth on the basic chord are unique. Despite the ornamentation, textual expression and musical rhetoric are still clearly present. The dark, sonorous Crucifixus for three basses, two cellos and bassoon contrast distinctly with the exultant Et resurrexit. The extremely virtuoso trumpet parts throughout the whole Mass indicate that Fiocco must have had very good trumpeters at his disposal, just as J.S. Bach did. To create unity through his larger compositions, as in this Mass, Fiocco uses identical musical fragments for the text Et in terra pax from the Gloria and the text Dona nobis pacem from the Agnus Dei, a procedure we can also find in Bachs B minor Mass. Similarly, the opening and final choruses of the motet Homo quidam are identical.
Joseph-Hector Fiocco can certainly be considered the most important Flemish composer of the first half of the eighteenth century, writing music that offers a synthesis of the French, from Lully and Couperin, the Italian of Vivaldi, particularly in his motets, and the Italianate style embodied by Handel in England. A man of some versatility, he distinguished himself as a harpsichord player, but also boasted ability in Greek and Latin, as well as in violin-making.