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Quignard, René

«Quel charmant musician!» disait un jour de lui m. Louis Vierne. Quoted appreciatively on the back cover of one of his scores from the almost mythical Procure de la Musique Religueuse – sounds to me unfairly like faint praise

My sort of composer, by which we can here understand someone who writes the sort of music I wish I could write! The first pieces I found were his voluntaries for Easter, based on the Gregorian propers for the feast.: already enough to catch my interest, with their little echoes of plainchant and their gently dissonant harmonisations. Alerted, I didn't hesitate when the voluntaries for Christmas, Pentecost and Sacred Heart came my way. It's just a pity (perhaps) my congregation is unlikely to spot the allusion; still, the music is worth playing in its own right.

Then, after a few years' of treating myself to Quignard only for major feasts, Chris and I went to the second-hand music shop in Brussels and came back well stocked: two volumes of les Harmonies Mystiques du Jeune Organiste, no less than forty short pieces just about within my limited powers of execution. Neat, workmanlike, elegant … and, frankly, fun! Happy investigations of assorted traditional French carols, a little Christmas suite treating l'Empéreur Auguste as a prelude modéré, doux et mystérieux, as a solemn march for the Three Kings and as an entirely charming pastorale – drone bass included, of course – for the shepherds. Difficult, very difficult (and essentially silly) to try and choose a favourite: but the Petite Suite Archaïque is impossible to play without an appreciative smile.

And there's more … our latest trip to the same shop turned up a mass setting alternating four-part with chunks of Gregorian. Intriguing, and from what sense I've managed to make of the score I want a choir. Now. Volunteers please e-mail me<g>

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