Among the several series of music editions offered by the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles (CMBV), one finds the important Éditions monumentales. This series of comprehensive critical editions will produce the collected works of six leading figures in the history of French sacred music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704), Henry Du Mont (1610–1684), Sébastien de Brossard (1655–1730), Étienne Moulinié (1599–1676), Henry Desmarest (1661–1741), and in Series VI, Pierre Robert (ca. 1622–1699). Robert, an important early figure in the development of the concerted French motet, has been little studied, and this volume offers a major contribution to the availability of his works, one that is most welcome.
Pierre Robert served important cathedrals in France, including Senlis, Chartres, and Notre Dame in Paris, where he had received his early training, before his appointment to the Royal Chapel of Louis XIV in 1663, a post he shared with other important figures, including Du Mont. Robert and Du Mont cultivated the motet genre in the Royal Chapel for two decades, just as the grand siècle was unfolding, laying the foundation for the motet forms that were to flourish in French church music for the next century. They both retired in 1683, just as the court was moving to Versailles, and the musicians of the Royal Chapel were segueing to Lalande and the others who became the new sous-maîtres after the famous competition of 1683.
In the mid-1680s Louis XIV ordered the publication by Ballard of fifty-six motets in part-books, leading to the wide distribution throughout the kingdom of the motets à grand chœur of the Royal Chapel. Those publications included twenty motets by Du Mont (1686), twelve by Lully (1684), and twenty-four by Robert (1684), works that provided models for church music composers all over France. The motets published in 1684 became Robert’s best known, but the volume in hand holds other works, specifically all of Robert’s polyphonic pieces that survive only in manuscript form––works that have received little attention since the time of Louis XIV. This critical edition holds 133 pages of front matter in French and English, including a foreword, introduction (containing a description of the editorial method), texts and translations (from the Latin to French and English), and a generous provision of ten facsimile plates from the manuscripts.
This volume, the first in a projected series of seven volumes to be devoted to Pierre Robert, contains fourteen distinct works (including one, a Regina cœli, that is a revision or adaptation of an earlier version). Appendices offer variant versions of two of the Elevations, plus the texts of six Elevations by Robert for which the music is lost. The fourteen works fall into two sets offered in chronological order: first are two early motets for two choirs (i.e., à 8) from the time of Robert’s service to the Petitspères de Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (1643–62), along with the second version of the [End Page 768] Regina cœli, a setting for five voices. These are followed by eleven Elevations for the Royal Chapel from the 1663–1683 era, including five for two voices and continuo, then a group of four Elevations for three and four voices, and finally, two works for one and two voices respectively with symphonie : instrumental forces of two violins and continuo. Insofar as these latter two works are very early examples introducing instruments in the Mass in the Royal Chapel, they warrant careful study for those interested in the development of the concerted French motet as undertaken by Du Mont, Robert, Lully, and then Lalande and the other...