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Henri IV - An unfinished reign

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Te Deum

Eustache Du Caurroy

Source : ‘Tomás Luis de Victoria : Missa pro Victoria; Eustache Du Caurroy : Te Deum pour la paix de Vervins’; Le Parlement de Musique; dir. Martin Gester; Accord 206782 (1998). (p) 1999 Classics Jazz France / Conseil Général de l’Aisne. (Universal Music Vision).


This motet on Saint Ambrose's hymn to giving thanks comes from the liber primus of Du Caurroy's Preces ecclesiasticæ, which was dedicated to Henri IV. Although we are not exactly sure for whom it was composed, this Te Deum for six voices in two alternating choruses by the sous-maître de la Chapelle under Henri IV perfectly fits the description of the ceremony held in August 1598 at Notre Dame in Paris by the Musique du Roi, "for the celebration of peace": "Those [the cantors] of the Musique de la Chambre, of softer and deeper voices, together with the sweetness of the lutes, voilas and other gentler instruments, were to the right (on a wooden scaffold), so that they might be better heard by H.[is] M.[ajesty], who had his oratory in that section. Those of the Chapelle, blending their strong and fuller voices with the cornets and trompons, were on the the other side, towards the section of Msgr. the Legate; and the two choruses complemented each other for a highly agreeable concert and a very harmonious melody in alternating couplets."


Eustache Du Caurroy


Eustache Du Caurroy was born in 1549 in Gerberoy, at the borders of Picardy, Normandy and the Ile de France. He is considered to be the last great masters of Renaissance polyphony. He probably entered royal service (as a countertenor in the king's chapel) in 1575, the same year he won a musical competition in the town of Evreux, the Puy de Sainte Cécile, with a composition for four voices, Rosette pour un peu d’absence. He won the same competition the following year, with a motet for five voices (Tribularer si nescirem, now lost), and again in 1583 with a song, Beaux yeux dont le pouvoir, also for five voices.

In 1578, his name appears in the court account-books, still listed as a countertenor, but also as sous-maître de la Chapelle du roi, one of the most prestigious musical posts in the kingdom. He was also a member of the Chapelle of the queen mother Catherine de Médicis (1585 and 1587) and appeared to have been part of the circle around Marguerite de Valois who, starting in 1605, gathered around her the finest artists at her townhouse in Rue des Augustins (where the École des Beaux-Arts now stands).

Starting in 1594, Henri IV set Du Caurroy apart from other musicians. In 1595, Henri named him Compositeur de la Musique de la Chambre – a post he shared with Claude Le Jeune – and Compositeur de la Musique de la Chapelle five years later in 1599. This royal favour was accompanied by a number of ecclesiastical benefits that ensured him a comfortable life. He died in 1609 as he was preparing to publish his works, having signed an agreement with Pierre Ballard, "music printer to the king". He barely lived to see the completion of the project.

Most of his surviving works have come down to us in five collections, published starting in 1609. There are two volumes of Preces ecclesiasticæ (1609), dedicated to Henri IV and Marguerite de Valois, which contain fifty-three motets for between three and seven voices; forty-two Fantasies a III, IV, V et VI parties (1610); one volume of Melanges (1610), which contain secular and sacred polyphonic works sung in French; a Missa pro defunctis for five voices. This last was written around 1590, but the only surviving source for it is a re-edition by Ballard from 1636. It was sung at the funeral service for Henri IV, and tradition made it the funeral mass for the kings of France. Three other masses for four voices that he wrote are now lost.

Transcription (in French)

Te Deum laudamus
Te Dominum confitemur
Te æternum Patrem,
Omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli,
Tibi cæli et universæ Potestates,
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
Incessabili proclamant…

(Nous te louons, Dieu,
Nous t’acclamons, Seigneur.
Père éternel,
Toute la Terre te vénère.
C’est pour toi que tous les anges,
Les cieux, toutes les puissances,
Les chérubins et les séraphins
Chantent inlassablement…)

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