François D’Agincour–Organ works

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

One thing’s for certain: the sound of the organ used on this recording epitomizes the description “richly colored”. Built in 1699 by the king’s organ builder, Julien Tribuot, the instrument, which now resides at the church in Seurre, France, has been fully restored to “its original aspect”–as it was during the time of Louis XIV. And it’s not only grand and mellifluous of tone, but it’s smartly and stylishly registered and eloquently played by organist Hervé Niquet in ideal sound (no easy task where organ recordings are concerned). Monsieur d’Agincour (otherwise known as Jacques André François d’Agincour) served in various church posts during the first half of the 18th century, including a stint at the Chapel Royal of Versailles. He was something of a non-conformist, compositionally speaking, but nothing on this program appears particularly unusual relative to other French organ music of the period. Except for some arias for solo voice and 43 pieces from his Book for Harpsichord, little of d’Agincour’s music has survived intact. That includes his organ music, so if you’re looking for a disc of complete works for organ–as the outer packaging would have you believe it is–you’ll be in for a surprise.

The program actually consists of liturgical service music, sung in plainchant by the very fine ensemble Les Dames de St. Jean, seamlessly joined by solo organ interludes for the service of Pentecost. (There is one complete organ work, a brilliant “Offertoire” by d’Agincour contemporary Jean-François Dandrieu.) You might think that this arrangement would become tiresome after awhile–but unless you just don’t like chant or organ music, you’ll most likely find this program thoroughly engaging. That’s not only due to the music, which exudes an almost invariably upbeat tone, but also to the very high level of the performances. The small vocal ensemble–seven women–sounds like one full-bodied voice, and the chant style is flowing and gently inflected. Some of the best music comes at the end–the Litanies à la Vierge and a Magnificat, featuring lovely chant melodies and especially well-integrated responses from the organ. This is not what I expected–but in this case the surprise was a very pleasant one.

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Recording Details:

FRANÇOIS D'AGINCOUR - Organ pieces for the Service of Pentecost (with plainchant by Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers)

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