Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir a cappella is one of the repertoire’s most widely performed monuments, and Valentin Villard’s Mass for six voices could well follow in its footsteps. Although 90 years separate these two works, there is an evident filiation between Frank Martin and Valentin Villard. Both composers develop their own harmonic language based on contemporary practices, seek lines of great vocality and explore the orchestral dimension of juxtaposing human voices. Furthermore, both put their writing to the service of an expression of interiority devoid of affectation, with total sincerity and the same ethical and artistic aim.
Frank Martin wrote his Mass for Double Choir a cappella in 1922 (except for the Agnus Dei, which dates from 1926) but did not intend it to be performed publicly or even published. It was not until he composed In Terra pax at the end of the Second World War that he considered writing sacred music for public performance. Then, after having produced Golgotha, Le Mystère de la nativité (The Mystery of Nativity), Pilate, Psaumes de Genève and Maria-Triptychon, he agreed to satisfy the curiosity his Mass had aroused. The piece was finally premiered in 1969. What followed is a well-known fact: Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir became one of the composer’s most famous works, although it is daunting to perform. It is, however, written in a straightforward modal and diatonic language, which only remotely anticipates the refinement and strong personality of Martin’s works from Le Vin herbé onwards.
World Premiere Recording
Valentin Villard’s Mass for six voices is written for choir a cappella and a sextet of soloists within the ensemble. In this sense, it is also a mass for double choir, one being contained within the other. Written between 2008 and 2011, it is one of the young composer’s few pieces that were not commissioned. Its writing is ample, generous and dense; it explores the choir’s orchestral dimension, building on the tonality or breaking away from it, giving rise to refined and precise harmonic clouds through astonishing aleatory passages. Its performance is also very tricky: through the simplicity of his writing, the composer achieves the musical density and depth that are now his hallmark.
With this recording of Frank Martin and Valentin Villard’s masses, the Académie vocale de Suisse romande intends to compare two works that present a strong bond of filiation. The ensemble also wishes to value its close relationship with past and present composers from the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Académie vocale de Suisse romande
The Académie vocale de Suisse romande (AVSR) is a professional chamber choir that welcomes professional singers or music students from the whole of the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Renaud Bouvier and Dominique Tille, the choir’s source of inspiration and artistic directors, created the ensemble in August 2009. The choir is open to singers capable of assuming a particular function in balancing and fusing the choir’s vocal ranges. Depending on the project, this quest for alchemy enables the ensemble to obtain a rich palette of vocal colours, thanks to characteristic individual timbres.
The AVSR performs a vast repertoire, but its primary mission is to perform choral music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Such music is rarely presented at a professional level in the Romandie, which is why the ensemble prioritises recent works and premieres.
The AVSR conceives its projects as experiences to be shared on multiple levels and combines the needs of interpretation with a lively concert form. Through its productions, the choir intends to put works into a historical perspective, engage a dialogue between the composers and their time, relate music to chosen locations or perform in unusual venues. The AVSR is recognised as a bold and dynamic professional ensemble that regularly cooperates with the leading actors of the cultural scene.
One of the particularities of the AVSR is its two-headed artistic management. The two conductors share the same vision of developing a connection with the voice and choral music for both the public and the singers. They also believe in the emotional potential of the human voice that serves the repertoire and the composers who enrich it.
In 2012, the AVSR’s first recording (Liszt’s Sonata in B minor and Missa Choralis, with organist Benjamin Righetti) was rewarded by the Académie du disque lyrique in Paris with the Hector Berlioz Prize for the best recording of sacred music.
Translation: Michelle Bulloch – musitext.ch
Académie vocale de Suisse romande
Christine Chamartin Auer
Marine Le Mouël
Céline Latour Monnier
Cao-Thang Jeffrey Pham
* Solistes de la Messe à 6 voix de Villard.
Renaud Bouvier, born in 1968, first studied bassoon, singing, musical analysis and orchestration. In 2002, he graduated from Hervé Klopfenstein’s conducting class at the Lausanne Conservatory. He also holds a degree in literature from the University of Lausanne, where he was an assistant in French literature and carried out various research and publishing mandates from 1994 to 2014.
Since 2003, he has directed numerous choirs, projects and workshops in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. With the choirs he regularly conducts (Académie vocale de Suisse romande, Vocalistes Romands, Choeur de la Cité de Lausanne and Cantabile, the symphonic choir of canton Neuchâtel), he explores a repertoire ranging from small a cappella ensembles to large symphonic choirs, with a pronounced taste for creations and lesser-known works. He premiered Valentin Villard’s Messe à six voix in 2014 with the Vocalistes Romands, as well as Villard’s Fresque Poétique in 2017 with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, the Choeur de la Cité de Lausanne and the Vocalistes Romands. [..]
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Dominique Tille was born in Lausanne in 1980. Back in his childhood, he was already immersed in the world of music: his father directed folk choirs while his mother was active in the Vaud folkloric traditions. He graduated from the Conservatoire de Lausanne as a music teacher. His love of singing and choir conducting then led him to the Geneva Music Conservatory, where he studied with Michel Corboz. He then continued his musical training at the Berlin Universität der Künste. After obtaining his Advanced Diploma in Lausanne, he spent four years in New York, splitting his study time between singing, dancing and acting.
Dominique Tille is the founder of the Lausanne Youth Choir, which later became the Voix de Lausanne and the female vocal ensemble Callirhoé. He also conducts the choir of the HEMU (Haute école de musique de Lausanne) and directed the Swiss Youth Choir from 2010 to 2015. Since September 2021, he is the artistic director of the French National Youth Choir. [..]
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