Unknown until now, and well worth the wait
This sumptuously recorded SACD features the music of French composer Guillaume Bouzignac (c. 1587- post 1643), born amidst the southern provinces, and fated to avoid the more fame-producing cities like Paris and others that promoted the French court. As a result, his music lay dormant until the beginning of the 20th century, and though scholars have been able to piece together only small parts of the puzzle of his life, his originality and talent stand clear.
Apparently it stood that way during most of his lifetime also. His excellent provincial education thrust him into a "singing school" in his earliest years, where those boys with good voices were applied to good teaching in Latin, reading, writing, and the other courses considered applicable to a liberal arts education of the time. His rise as a singer and music master took him to a succession of cathedrals and major music centers all over the country. But there is a question as to how "original" he was perceived to be in his time, and this, coupled with his living on the outskirts of the inner circle of "cultured" French life, may have led to his being forgotten.
The music itself is, in a word, wonderful. The melodies, avoiding the normal churchly style of the time, and seemingly incorporating what sounds like a heavily-influenced folk idiom, are tuneful and highly dramatic. His use of the chorus, from large antiphonal responses to unequally balanced ensembles, to superb solo combinations, is thrilling and highly effective. Though this music is hardly redolent of the new music that would shortly move through the continent, it has ist own definitions and standards, and an extraordinarily expressive means of communication.
Tacet has labeled this as genuine 5.1 sound, and so it seems, the surround separation like standing in the middle of an acoustically perfect cathedral. The choir is excellent, fully involved in these readings, and sing with great spirit. The booklet notes are very good, though the translations of the Latin texts into German only get an award of a half-star deduction. And if you don′t have SACD, well, this sounds great on headphones too.
Steven Ritter

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