Psaumes de la Reforme
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Claude Goudimel (1520 - 1572)
Psalms of the French Reformed Church
translated by Clement Marot
The French Reformed Psalter
The French Reformed Psalter consists of paraphrases of thePsalms of David made by Clement Marot and Theodore de B?¿ze in the sixteenth century andset to Gregorian melodies and to melodies secular or unpublished, adapted or harmonized.
More than a purely functional collection, the Huguenot Psalter is a powerful vehicle ofthe Protestant faith. It clarified theological, musical and aesthetic questions of theRenaissance and exercised an undeniable influence on the music of the period.
Claude Goudimel (1520-1572), who harmonized the Psalter, wasthe composer of a monumental work which contains several levels of composition. First thenote against note psalm, easy to perform and intended to be sung by everyone, then a morecontrapuntal psalm, more ornamented, and finally the psalm in the form of a motet, full ofsymbolism (Psalms XIII, CXXVIII and CIV) and treating each verse of the complete text. Thejuxtaposition of these three types of setting demonstrates the great art of this Frenchmaster, whose life was dramatically cut short at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Paschalde l'Estoquart and Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck contributed to the development of the genreinto the seventeenth century, with an ornate contrapuntal musical language more clearlyinstrumental (Psalm XXV) and making a more spectacular use of voices (Psalm CIV).
Meditative prayers of petition, penitential appeals to God indistress, are found in Psalms XIII, CLXIII and CXXX. The argument of Psalm CXXX istranslated by Clement Marot: Deeply felt prayer of onewho, through his sin, is in great adversity and nevertheless, through his firm hope, seeksto obtain from God remission of his sins and deliverance from evil.
Psalms of praise, acknowledgement of the creation, Psalms XXV,XXXIII, CIV, CVII and CXXVIII, rely on stirring melodies and are recognisable from theirgreat number: It is a fine hymn in which the prophet invites praise of the Almighty...(PsalmXXXIII); The deliverance of Israel out of Egypt...;Canticle of the priests, Levites and singers of Jerusalem, captive in Babylon. Thethird category of this group of psalms, Psalms CXIV and CXXXVII, tell the story of Israelin captivity and delivered.
The Song of Simeon concludesthe vingt psalmes derniers, traduitz par Clement Marot(Twenty Last Psalms, translated by Clement Marot). This is the only extractfrom the New Testament included in the Psalms of David.
The canticle is an exhortation to the chosen people.
Par le desert de mes peines, mon ?óme vahaletant (Through the desert of my suffering, my souls pants forbreath), the first words of the last chansonspirituelle composed by Goudimel, were written by his contemporary Antoine dela Roche-Chandieu. This new form marks, with the magnificent Octonaires de la Vanite du Monde and the Cantiques Spirituels, the development of religioussong in French, later to become a part of worship; after the Reformation, theCounter-Reformation extended considerably the use of French in the song of the Church. TheReformed Liturgy preserves living traces of older psalters through successive adaptationsand the feeling of the psalms is still generally familiar to those who have inherited theHuguenot Psalter.
Christine Morel (tr. Keith Anderson)
Psalme et chanson je chanteray,
A un seul Dieu, tant que je seray
(Psalm and song will I sing
To God alone, as long as I live)
Writer and courtier, royal scribe and recorder of the King'sjourneys and battles, poet of his celebrations and his mourning, Clement Marotconstructed neither a Gargantuan palace nor a Christian institution, but rather the Psalms of David newly put into French according to the trueHebrew. In debt to Erasmus for his freedom to read and transcribe Scriptureaccording to his personal experience and religious practice, he stands apart from theimmediate precursors of the Reformation, Nicolas de Clue and Guillaume Briconet, but alsoMarguerite of Navarre and her miroir de l?ómepecheresse (Mirror of a Sinful Soul). Marot avoids this brand of mysticism infavour of a direct acknowledgement and enjoyment of beauty. His joy in living throughgrace does nothing to take away the fear of war but spares him that feverish and obscurequest for God that he had found in Jesus Christ. This poet, free and light of heart, is,all in all, an evangelist rather than a theologian or a mystic.
Marot's evangelical faith is expressed in his song, where heplays with words as with a musical instrument. And what can be less mystical than this Petite ep?«tre au roi (Little Letter to the King):
En m'esbatant je fais rondeaux et rithme,
Et en rithmant bien souvent je m'enrime...
(In sport I make rondeaux and rhythm
And in rhythm often do I rhyme)
He lived his faith before God, coram Deo, and his Psalms express the attitude of thebeliever face to face with God, without turning aside, complexity, meditation or mystery.
The complete and sufficient fullness of salvation is expressed, as the end of his Dialogue chrestien (Christian Dialogue) shows:
En grand'clarte congnoistra vivement
Que par Dieu seul il a son saulvement,
Sans que jamais en rien l'ait merite
(Very clearly will he acknowledge
That he has salvation through God alone,
Without in any way deserving it.)
Michel Leplay, Extrait du Journal Reforme (tr. Keith Anderson)
Ensemble Claude Goudimel
The Ensemble Claude Goudimel is under the direction ofChristine Morel and includes the soprano Evelyne Brun, mezzosoprano Sylvette Claudot, altoLaurent Mitsakis, tenor Jean Yves Sidoit and bass Vincent Lecornier. The Ensemble aims atan expressive style of singing and various arrangements of the group have been used to putinto relief the melody of the psalm. With mixed voices it has been possible to cover thewhole repertoire, which includes works written in higher and in medium tessitura. The moreelaborate polyphonic settings keep only fragments of the psalm, with the use of three,four or five voices. In ornamented settings the voice that carries the melody is in theforeground, and sometimes the melody is sung by several voices. A morecompact positioning has been adopted for the simpler settings. In some cases the psalmmelody is entrusted to a single solo voice. In the settings of the Huguenot Psalter it isimportant that the text by Clement Marot should be intelligible, in addition to a livelyand animated performance of the transparent musical textures of the composers concerned.
The Ensemble aims to open again the pages of a Psalter that has survived the test of time.