(This Musing dates from circa 1995)
In addition to his acknowledged skills as analyst of musical styles, compiler of catalogs and editor of scores, Jean Duron, of the Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, possesses a very special gift. He asks wondrously provocative questions. That is to say, when a detail does not fit neatly into the elements he is assembling, he refuses to sweep the offending detail under the rug.
Instead, he calls attention to that detail as perhaps calling into question established views on the subject. He has done this several times for Charpentier scholarship. Each time he has provoked me to think very, very hard about the implications of his question. Each time my initial reaction has been: "It's an important question, but what he proposes simply cannot have been. It doesn't fit into the extremely coherent and consistent organization and content of the numbered notebooks into which Charpentier copied out his works, month after month (his so-called Meslanges autographes).
Still, the question is so important that I must delve deeper." In other words, I tend to conclude that, if had Jean come to grips with the nitty-gritty of the chronology of Charpentier's works as copied into the Meslanges, if he had focused on the position a specific work occupies in that sequence, and above all if he was very, very familiar with Charpentier's very consistent way of doing things over the decades, he doubtlessly would still have asked the questions, but he would have answered them more or less the way I do. Indeed, I hope and trust that the publication of my Vers une chronologie has been of help to Jean as he asks his wonderful questions about:
What does the word mélanges mean? And what are we to make of the questions that Jean Duron was asking about these autograph manuscripts? Most of all, were these manuscripts simply a huge copy book where Charpentier saved other peoples' compositions?
I reply to Duron in three related Musings:
Question A — Charpentier's cahiers: are they "meslanges" to which numerous composers contributed?
Question B — Charpentier's cahiers: are they a sketch-book? and is Charpentier's Assumpta est Maria therefore part of a sketchbook?
Question C — How did Charpentier come to set to music "Luctus," a Latin poem by Pierre Portes?