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Jean Gilles (de Tarascon)
1668 - 1705
France
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J. Gilles
Jean Gilles (de Tarascon) (08/01/1668 - 05/02/1705), a French composer, from Tarascon. In his "Letters on the famous men of the reign of Louis XV", Pierre-Louis d'Aquin wrote that if Gilles "had not died in his prime [he was 37] (...) perhaps he would have taken the place of the famous Lalande." A glorious, if posthumous reputation for a composer who only ever worked in the south of France. Born in 1668 in Tarascon, Gilles began his career at the cathedral of Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence, before going on to work at Agde, Avignon and Toulouse, where in 1697 he became master of music at the cathedral of Saint-Étienne. Here he wrote his Messe des morts, shortly before 1700.
Author:Jean-Luc Macia, translation: Theresa Lister
Messe des morts
Period:Baroque
Composed in:1699
Musical form:mass
Text/libretto:Latin mass
Duration:43'
In memory of:several persons (see below)
Label(s):Archiv 437087
Erato 0630-17899-2
HMD 941341
Few works written during France's "grand Siècle" were as celebrated in the 18th century as Gilles' Messe des morts. Not only was it performed around fifteen times during the famous Concerts Spirituels in Paris, but it was also sung at the memorial services for Rameau, King Stanislas of Poland and Louis XV shortly after their deaths. And in 1752, in his "Letters on the famous men of the reign of Louis XV", Pierre-Louis d'Aquin wrote that if Gilles "had not died in his prime [he was 37] (...) perhaps he would have taken the place of the famous Lalande." A glorious, if posthumous reputation for a composer who only ever worked in the south of France. Born in 1668 in Tarascon, Gilles began his career at the cathedral of Saint-Sauveur in Aix-en-Provence, before going on to work at Agde, Avignon and Toulouse, where in 1697 he became master of music at the cathedral of Saint-Étienne. Here he wrote is Messe des morts, shortly before 1700.
The work was commissioned for the funeral of two Parliamentary counsellors, but it seems that it was not performed for financial reasons. Campra was furious, and put it under seals, intending it for his own funeral, it was said. It was indeed performed at that melancholy occasion, and made a strong impression on its listeners.
In Provence, it was usual for the body of a deceased noble or wealthy person to be carried around the town in his open coffin, accompanied by music. This would have included parts for drums, which are not in Gilles' score, but have been recreated by Joel Cohen for this recording (Archiv 437087), which is the first attempt to recreate a Provençal funeral mass. The characteristic drum rhythm appears at several points in the strings or in the vocal parts. It was also the first time in France that a concertante style (where passages are sung altternately by soloists and chorus) had been employed in a mass, along the lines of the motets written for the Chapel at Versailles and the end of the 17th century. Several movements of the Requiem, including the "Introit", open with a solo voice (usually the tenor), followed by vocal duets or trios which are then elaborated by the choir. Other noteworthy features are the role of the "simphonie" (the orchestra), providing substantial musical links, the highly theatrical nature of the solo recitatives, colourful effects like the evocation of hell's torments in the "Offertoire", and the monumental fugue of the final "Communion". Gilles' Messe des morts, full of variety and permeated by a serene and peaceful light, fully justifies its reputation as one of the jewels of the French Baroque.
It should be noted that in this performance, Joel Cohen has included the "Ordinary" of the Gregorian mass between the verses set by Gilles.
Author:Jean-Luc Macia, translation: Theresa Lister
The requiem, duration: 43'. It contains:
1. Requiem Aeternam (Gregorian)
2. Introit
3. Kyrie
4. Graduel
5. Absolve Domine
6. Dies Irae (Gregorian)
7. Offertorium
8. Vere Dignum (Gregorian)
9. Sanctus
10. Qui Lazarum (Gregorian)
11. Agnus Dei
12. Post Communion
Source:booklet of cd Archiv 437087
The Messe des morts by Jean Gilles gained widespread admiration in 18th-century France for its lively character. The vocal soloists and orchestra predominate, often with dance-like music, while the chorus contributes climactic endings to each main section in a largely homophonic style. At Rameau's funeral on 27 September 1764 the requiem is said to have been ‘interlarded with passages from Castor and Pollux and other operas’ by the deceased composer; and at the Concert Spirituel towards the end of the century to have been embellished by ‘a carillon added at the end … by Michel Corrette’.
Author:Steven Chang-Lin Yu
Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (1705 – 11/01/1755) revised in December 1750 the “Requiem aeternam” (the first part from the “Introitus” of the “Messe des morts”) by the Gilles.
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André Campra
(Gilles' requiem was
performed at his funeral)
Jean-Philippe Rameau
(Gilles' requiem was
performed at his funeral)
Louis XV
(Gilles' requiem was
performed at his funeral)
King Stanislas of Poland
(Gilles' requiem was
performed at his funeral)