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Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Charpentier's Funeral Music, 1671-1676

Note: this Musing is complemented by a Fugitive Piece: a Guise funeral oration

I've done a lot of puzzling about which piece of the funeral music in notebooks 3, 4, 5 and 12 was composed for which event. Early in my research became apparent that the first three notebooks, which date from 1671 and 1672, are contemporary with the funerals of Mme de Guise's husband (August 1671) and mother (May 1672). And so, H. 2, H. 234, H. 311, H. 156 and H. 12 must have been written for these events.

By juxtaposing liturgy, compositions and the different bits of evidence I unearthed about the funerals of these members of the House of Lorraine, I believe that I have carried our knowledge just a bit farther. And I hope that, in the process, I am helping us better to understand some of the constraints under which Charpentier worked while at the Hôtel de Guise.

First, the historical facts, without all the details — each time followed by observations gleaned from Charpentier's notebooks.

Let's begin with the funeral of the Duke of Guise in August 1671

On July 18, 1671, shortly after his return to Paris from a visit to the English court, twenty-one year-old Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, Duke of Guise, fell ill with smallpox. He died on July 30. The body briefly lay in state in "une grande sale tendue de Deuil ... ainsi que la premiere cour de l'Hostel, un vestibule et la grande porte" de Clisson. The next day, his body was taken in pomp to the parish church of Saint-Jean-en-Grève, where it lay it state for three weeks.(1) The king ordered "forty days" of mourning and declared that mourning for Guise would be "confondu avec celui de M. le Duc d'Anjou," his own little son. As was customary for female mourners, during these forty days Mlle de Guise and Mme de Guise were in retirement at the abbey of Montmartre, where they remained until approximately September 10.

However, soon after the Duke's death, his heart was carried to Montmartre, where it was received by the abbess (Mlle de Guise's sister) and by the two grieving Guise princesses.

August 20 brought a solemn "pontifical mass" at Saint-Jean-en-Grève, with Claude Malier, bishop of Tarbes, first almoner of Mme de Guise's mother (and brother of Élisabeth Malier-Bailleul, a "friend" of the Charpentier-Édouards) officiating. Unless they sneaked back into Paris and attended this service incognito, neither Mlle de Guise nor Mme de Guise was present. The evidence I have collected does not discuss any music that accompanied this event, but it is likely that it included music similar to that performed at the funeral of Mlle de Guise's mother, when "la Sainte et lugubre Musique y fut touchante et pathétique, et tira des larmes des yeux."(2) The sources leave no doubt about the splendor of the event: for the mourning garb and hangings alone, Mme de Guise paid, from her own pocket, "30,000 livres pour le deuil" for herself and her household.(3)

After the mass, a wagon pulled by eight horses, "carapaçonnez de Drap noir, parsemé de Croix de Lorraine, de brocart d'Argent" and followed by the Duke's household officers, started off for Joinville, the Guise necropolis. They advanced "avec un silence qui rendoit ce Spectacle encor plus lugubre."(4) It took them a week to reach Joinville, for the procession stopped along the way at various Guise properties, and at each stop a service was held in the Duke's memory.
What do Charpentier's "French" notebooks contain for August 1671?

Cahier 3, which clearly dates from that period, contains a Messe pour les trépassés (H. 2) and a Pie Jesu (H. 234). The mass was destined for a large ensemble, so large that someone who does not know the circumstances has every reason to assert — as one very perspicacious musicologist once asserted to me — that this mass surely was never performed, for no one outside the royal family could have assembled so many singers and musicians! This obstacle dissolves, of course, when one realizes, first, that the King declared the funeral to be inseparable from his mourning for his own son, and second, that he was wont to "loan" his musicians to his cousins.(5) The cross-outs and the disorganization of the manuscript of this mass (unlike most of Charpentier's manuscripts, the different elements are not copied out in strict sequence) permit twentieth-century scholars to sense the emotional chaos that this death had brought to the Hôtel de Guise, and the pressure the young composer felt as he not only fought a deadline but worried about his own future.

Eight months later, on April 3, 1672, came the death of Marguerite de Lorraine, Dowager Duchess of Orléans, Mme de Guise's mother

Mme de Guise immediately withdrew to the abbey of Montmartre, and Mlle de Guise promptly joined her. Garbed in the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis, the Dowager's body was carried with great pomp to Saint-Denis and was placed in a chapel to await the state funeral scheduled for May. The cortege continued on to Montmartre, where Bishop Malier — surrounded by "five hundred torches of white wax" carried by the defunct's pages and valets — turned over Madame's heart to the nuns, "enfermé dans un Coeur d'argent, sur un Carreau de velous noir, sur lequel estoit une Couronne vermeil doré, couverte d'un Crespe."(6) No elaborate service seems to have taken place on that day.

Although not named, Mme de Guise and Mlle de Guise clearly were present at the ceremony during which the heart was received, for sources inform us that they were at the abbey, observing the customary forty days of mourning, and that they remained in seclusion at Montmartre until at least April 22, when Mme de Guise ventured to Paris to supervise the execution of her mother's estate. In other words, the two Guise Highnesses spent Holy Week at Montmartre, not far from the Dowager's heart, which lay in state in the abbey church.

Here a parenthesis is appropriate, for events at Montmartre suggest the venue for one of Charpentier's settings of Jeremiah's lamentations. On Wednesday, May 13 (the day of the first of the tenebrae service of Holy Week), Louis XIV appeared at the abbey to offer his condolences. He attended a "mass," then spoke briefly with the two princesses. Now, it would seem that the "mass" was either a special private service held just before tenebrae, or else it was the actual tenebrae service for Maundy Thursday (which was sung on Wednesday afternoon so that faithful lay persons would not have to rise in the middle of the night). Had Louis XIV delayed his visit by one day, he doubtlessly would have heard l'Autre Jerusalem (H. 234) that Charpentier wrote to replace the Jerusalem of 1670 (H. 93) and that he copied onto the final sheet of cahier 2, circa April 1672. I would like to propose that the lessons for tenebrae that Charpentier had composed in 1670 were re-employed at Montmartre in 1672. Be that as it may, the tenebrae services sung at Montmartre during Holy Week of 1672 were even more lugubrious than usual, for Madame's heart lay on a platform in the black-draped choir of the abbey.(7)

May 1672 brought a spate of services in Madame's memory. On May 11, her state funeral was held at Saint-Denis, with Gabriel de Roquette (known as Mlle de Guise's "Tartuffe") officiating. In the black-draped basilica, the coffin containing Madame's body lay in state under a dias of black velvet, surrounded by an "infinité de chandeliers d'argent." The coffin was covered by a "poisle de la couronne sur lequel estoit une Couronne de Vermeil doré et un manteau ducal de satin bleu à trois rangs de fleurs de lys d'or et bordé d'hermine blanche moucheté." The funeral actually consisted of two separate services. The first began at three o'clock on May 10 and consisted of "vêpres, et vigiles des morts." The second, which started at eight the next morning, was a "messe qui fut chantée en musique par la chapelle du roy qu'on avoit placée au jubé."(8)

Various sources permit the historian to sketch the ceremonial of this mass. Veiled and wearing a "mante dont la queue estoit de cinq aulnes de long," Mme de Guise "led" the mourners, because she was the Dowager's daughter. After the élévation, six monks from the abbey appeared, bearing torches. After the absoute (that is, intercessory prayers for the deceased), and after the four officiating prelates had wafted incense over the coffin, the "musique commença le De Profundis." Standing at the foot of the coffin, Malier sprinkled it with holy water, then signaled that it should be carried in procession to the burial vault. Making an extremely generous gesture on behalf of his grieving first cousin, Mme de Guise, Louis XIV paid all the funeral expenses, "contre la coustume, estant du devoir des heritiers de le faire."(9)

There were other services for Madame that month. On May 14, Mme de Guise sponsored, at her own expense, a "service solemnel" for her mother's heart at Montmartre; and on May 21 the nuns of the abbey of Charonne (which her late mother had founded and where Mme de Guise had been raised) held a service for Madame's entrails. At the latter service, which was "chantée par la Musique [du roi] and which was embellished by "un beau Mausolée, et toute la pompe deue à la memoire d'une si grande Princesse," Bishop Malier again officiated, in the presence of Mme de Guise and a "grand nombre de Princesses."(10)

Do elements of any of these services for Madame appear in Charpentier's "French" notebooks?
This surely is the case. Cahier 4 contains a Motet pour les trépassés: Plainte des âmes du purgatoire (H. 311) and a De Profundis and Requiem æternum (H. 156). The liturgical texts that were pieced together to form the text of the motet come from the three nocturnes and lessons of the so-called "Vigiles des morts," a matins service. Now, these three nocturnes were recited on only a few occasions: the Feast of the Dead in early November and the vigil that preceded either a burial or the ceremony known as the "Bout de l'An," that is, the first anniversary of a death.(11)
By contrast, the De Profundis (H. 156), also in cahier 4, does not fit into the Vigils for the Dead. Roman breviaries of the period specify that this psalm — and the Requiem æternam that ends it — was not chanted or recited during the Vigils for the Dead, nor during vespers, nor even for the Feast of the Dead in November. The usage of the diocese of Paris agrees: the De Profundis was neither a part of vespers, nor a part of lauds. True, it was recited during the Officium defunctorum, but without the words "Requiem æternam" that Charpentier specifies should come at the end of the De Profundis, to be sung to the melody used for the first verse of the psalm. In other words, the musicians were to sing the entire verse: "Requiem æternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpétua luceat eis."(12) This means that Charpentier's De Profundis was not appropriate for the routine "office des morts" that was sung on the first day of each month, nor for the great Feast of the Dead in November. In fact, this means that it has to have been written for an actual funeral — and, judging from the Rituale parisiense, a De Profundis and a "Requiem, unico verso" were to be sung when actually burying an adult. Standing at the feet of the deceased and sprinkling the body with holy water, the "récitant" and a "choir" alternated the half-verses of the psalm.(13) This is virtually what Charpentier does in his De Profundis, where a choir of hauts dessus, haute-contres, tailles and basses begins the psalm, and a smaller and ever-changing group sings the next segment. This alternation of recitants and choir continues to the very end of the psalm.

In sum, Charpentier wrote this De Profundis for the burial of an adult. Who could that adult have been, circa April-May 1672, if not Marguerite de Lorraine? Are we to conclude that this De Profundis was performed at the funeral pomp conducted in Marguerite de Lorraine's honor at Saint-Denis, on May 11, 1672? I think we should. For we have seen that, in cahier 4, the De Profundis is preceded by texts selected from the Vigils for the Dead: this is just the sort of service that was sung on May 10: "vêpres et vigiles des morts," says the source. In other words, the Motet (H.311), sub-titled "Plainte des âmes du purgatoire," probably was performed for the first time during the vigils conducted at Saint-Denis on the afternoon of May 10, 1672. It is, of course, quite likely that this particular work was reused on several occasions between mid-May and late July of that year, for example, at Montmartre and at Charonne — performed, on each of these occasions, by the musique du roi.

Alas, the sources do not identify the person or persons who composed the mass for Saint-Denis nor the "vigils" of the previous day. That no royal composer was mentioned, suggests that the composer belonged either to the House of Lorraine or the House of Orléans. Indeed, although the King was paying the bill, Mme de Guise can be presumed to have participated in the preparation of this service, as she did for at least one of the subsequent services for which she "supplied the money for the burial, funeral services" (and doctor bills), in the amount of just over 19,000 livres.(14)

As one of Charpentier's patronesses, would not Elisabeth d'Orléans have seen to it that some of her protégé's works were woven into the funeral? Would she not have deemed it appropriate that the Messe pour les trépassés (H. 2), which Charpentier had written for Louis-Joseph de Lorraine a scant nine months earlier, should be performed a second time at Saint-Denis? The participation of Bishop Malier of Tarbes, the late princess's almoner, and of Bishop Roquette of Autun, Mlle de Guise's friend, reveals the extent to which the funeral was being planned by the bereaved women or their confidents. Mme de Guise had clearly made it known to Sainctot and his assistants that she wanted to be surrounded that day by people who were devoted to the Lorraines. Did she also express her desire that her mother be laid to rest to the music that had accompanied her husband's memorial mass at Saint-Jean-en-Grève, only a few months earlier? In other words, I would like to suggest that the royal musicians who had performed at Saint-Denis on May 10 and May 11 went out Charonne on May 21 (and probably to Montmartre on May 14).

This would go a long way explain the presence of a De Profundis in cahier 4, at the tail-end of music for the Vigils for the Dead. That is to say, the pontifical mass sung at Saint-Jean-en-Grève in August 1671 would not have included a De Profundis and a Requiem, because Louis-Joseph de Lorraine was not being buried that day! If the Messe des trépassés was to be re-employed for Madame, Charpentier had to write a De Profundis and a Requiem æternum. In addition, there is internal evidence to suggest that the mass for the dead was revamped: perhaps the most telling clue to these revisions appears on fol. 20 (p. 37 of the Minkoff facsimile), where a "symphonie," copied out with a finer quill, was inserted between two vocal passages.

The Guise women were doubtlessly already preparing the late Duke's Bout de l'An, scheduled for Montmartre on July 30, 1672, the anniversary of his death

This Bout de l'An service proves to have been a pontifical mass conducted "with all the possible pomp" — a phrase that suggests that the event was very elaborate:

On celebra le bout de l'An du Duc de Guyse en l'Eglise de l'Abbaye de Montmartre, avec toutte la pompe possible, l'Evesque d'Authun [Roquette] y ayant officié pontificalement, en présence des Princes et Princesses de sa Maison [de Lorraine], de plusieurs Evesques, et d'autres Personnes de la première Qualité. Madame de Guyse de rendit de Saint Germain en Laye, dès la Veille, en ladite Abbaye, pour assister à ses funèbres Devoirs; et y voulut demeurer jusques au 1 de ce mois [d'août], pour répendre, en secret, et avec quelque sorte de consolation, les larmes qu'elle donne si tendrement, à la Memoire de son Epous.(15)

The phrase "avec toutte la pompe possible" suggests that music formed an integral part of this pontifical mass. And Mme de Guise had gone to the abbey the "previous day." Why? Doubtlessly to attend the "Vigile des morts" that was held "in primo Anniversario"(16) of a death. In short, are we to conclude that, on the afternoon of July 29, 1672, Charpentier's Plainte des âmes du purgatoire (H. 311) was once again performed? (I, for one, believe that to be the case.)

The Bout de l'An for Louis-Joseph de Lorraine was but the first in a succession of commemorative services: each year, memorial services were held at Charonne in memory of Mme de Guise's parents; and, although the sources do not mention them, Mlle de Guise doubtlessly held similar services for the her relatives at Montmartre or at another of her chapels.(17)

Do Charpentier's notebooks suggest that he composed something for this Bout de l'An?
Cahier 5 begins with a Prose des morts (H. 12) from which the chaos that marked cahier 4 has dissipated. One senses that Charpentier had been given ample time to elaborate the Prose. In other words, it would seem that he had begun working on it prior to Marguerite de Lorraine's death in April 1672.

This sequence, this prose, is not part of the Officium defunctorum in the breviaries published in France during those years. It belongs to the Missa in commemoratione omnium fidelium Defunctorum,(18) called the "Requiem" mass because it began with the introit "Requiem æternam dona eis Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis." In other words, H. 12 should be seen as a "commemorative" gesture: that is to say, it is appropriate for the Feast of the Dead on November 1 and 2, but it also could be used on the anniversary of a death.(19) The Prose is therefore liturgically correct for the Bout de l'An of Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, held at Montmartre on July 30, 1672. And it could have been re-employed for the Bout de l'An of Madame, or conceivably for the annual services that Mme de Guise organized in her parents' memory at Charonne.(20)

I believe that Charpentier was working on the Prose des morts well in advance, that is to say, as early as circa January 1672. I say this because this work fills the first half of cahier 5, which the composer made from a new supply of paper and into the middle of which he tucked an isolated sheet of simil-jesuit paper whose staves are still very black today. In other words, this notebook includes a sheet of the very same paper as the Messe à 8 voix (H. 3), which, as far as I can judge, dates from January 1672. (I have also written a Musing about that event!) The presence of this paper in both series of notebooks suggests that Charpentier was already working on the Prose during Lent of 1672, that is, during the months prior to Madame's death. In other words, it seems safe to conclude that this work was intended for Louis-Joseph de Lorraine, who had been dead for many months, rather than for Marguerite de Lorraine — although it may well have been reused for her Bout de l'An.

There is one more piece of funeral music in the French notebooks: the Pie Jesu (H. 427) in cahier 12.

I admit to being mystified about the raison d'être and venue of this piece. It clearly was composed after the "prayers for peace" recited throughout France during the spring of 1676, and before Advent of 1676; and since it was written for haut dessus, dessus and basse, it could be sung by the little Guise ensemble over which M. Du Bois reigned so enthusiastically. Perhaps it even was composed specifically for the Guise musicians?

Two hypotheses can be proposed for this work:

1) The first goes as follows: Mme de Guise's little son died in March 1675, so this Pie Jesu cannot have been written for his funeral. But it could have been composed for his Bout de l'An. Actually, the child's funeral appears to have been conducted with little if any pomp, so we can just about rule out a re-use of the music written for his father and grandmother. In fact, since this child was a close cousin to the royal family, his funeral probably observed the same protocol as that observed after the death of Louis XIV's five-year-old daughter in 1672. The body lay in state for a day, surrounded by chanting priests. The next day it was embalmed and placed in a coffin, and the heart was placed in a silver or vermeil box. The body was then carried to its burial place and apparently was interred without the forty-day delay customary for high-ranking adults. Nor does the Guise child appear to have been given an elaborate Bout de l'An. In fact, I have found no mention of Mme de Guise's presence at Montmartre that day, not even in the correspondence of the gossipy Florentine agents! This would suggest that nothing special happened that day at Montmartre. Still, it would be surprising if Mme de Guise was not there, especially since she frequently went to see her sister, Mme de Toscane, who had recently returned from Florence and was a "prisoner" at Montmartre. Still, we should not rule out the possibility that this new Pie Jesu was composed specifically for the Guise singers and was intended for performance at a private Bout de l'An.

2) The second hypothesis goes as follows: Mme Du Bois died in May 1676, so Charpentier wrote a Pie Jesu to be performed by the Guise ensemble at her funeral service.

*     *     *

I hope my Musing about the raisons d'être and venues of Charpentier's funeral music proves useful. Note: the research on which it is based was conducted prior to compilation of a data-bank of liturgical texts and their context by the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles. I have decided not to spend more time on this subject, but to move on to new Musings. But I would be very pleased to insert, in bold red type, any corrections or insights that other researchers might wish to make!

1. Vatican Library, Barb. lat. 3525, fols. 602v and 604.
2. Loret, Muze, II, p. 171, March 1656.
3. A.N., M.C., LXXV, 163, transaction, Dec. 20, 1672.
4. Gazette de France, August 1671, pp. 830-831.
5. M. Benoit, Versailles, p. 332 (to his cousin, Vendôme, at Anet), p. 78 (to the Dauphine, and to princes and princesses who sell pain bénit).
6. Gazette, April 1672, pp. 359-360.
7. Mazarine, ms. 2740, fols. 13v, 15v, ceremonial book of Sainctot.
8. Mazarine, ms. 1740, fol. 18.
9. Mazarine, ms. 1740, fols. 18-20v.
10. Gazette, May 1672, p. 492; Florence, Archivio di Stato, Med. del Prin., 4670, May 20, 1672.
11. See the breviary of Paris, 1669, and especially that published in 1682, which states that "Ah penis crucior," an excerpt from the Book of Job, was part of the second nocturne, and that "Miseremini mei" was recited during the third nocturne (and not during the first, as the modern breviaries consulted by Hitchcock show). These breviaries reveal that the three nocturnes were only recited in full on November 1 or on the day of a burial; and that, for the monthly services in honor of the dead, only one nocturne was said. H. 311 was consequently written either for November 1 (the chronological sequence of the notebooks contradicts this hypothesis) or for a burial that took place shortly after Lent.
12. The "Requiem aeternam dona eis....(etc)" was only said after the final psalm of the service, that is, the "Lauda anima" (Ps. 146), Rituale parisiense (Paris: Josse, 1697), p. 254.
13. Rituale parisiense, 1697, p. 309.
14. Florence, Med. del Prin., 4670, Sept. 23 and Dec. 2, 1672.
15. Gazette, August 1672, p. 792.
16. Rituale parisiense, 1697, p. 256.
17. The annual service for the anniversary of Madame's death sung at Charonne is mentioned in Med. del Prin., 4769, file 1: April 2, 1678, and the annual service for Gaston is mentioned in file 2: March 3, 1678. For another allusion to these services, see Med. del Prin., 4768, file 1: April 5, 1677: Mmes de Guise and de Toscane attended the "funerale che vi se fà ogni Anno" at Charonne.
18. See, for example, the Missale Romanum (Bordeaux, 1607) approved by Pius V, at the library of the Société des Lettres de l'Aveyron, Rodez.
19. This text was also said on the day of a death, the day of a burial and during a requiem mass (including the masses held on the third, seventh and thirtieth day after a death, and also for the Bout de l'An).
20. This Prose was eventually given a new prelude (since lost), which was supposed to be in cahier XVII. That cahier contains works written between March 1673 and the fall of 1674. I have no idea why this work may have be performed during that eighteen-month period.