Born in Saint-Omer around 1563, Titelouze is regarded as the founder of the French organ school. In 1623 and 1626 he published two fine collections of organ music: Hymnes de l’Église and organ Magnificats on the eight plainsong tones. As well as being of great intrinsic beauty – Titelouze was a skilful contrapuntist – and providing precious insight into early seventeenth-century liturgical music, these two works constitute an all-important reference point for French organ music, being the only ones published between 1531 and 1660. Titelouze spent most of his career as organist of Rouen cathedral and had a significant influence on contemporary organ building, as the instrument evolved towards the great French classical organ. He died in Rouen in 1633.
The four masses by Titelouze published here were discovered in November 2016 in the Bibliothèque de Fels (Institut Catholique de Paris). They are included in a volume of masses once belonging to the Library of the Minimes in Paris. The volume contains twenty-four mass settings printed in Paris between 1587 and 1626 by Ballard. It was known from archive sources that Titelouze had had two masses published; now we know that he composed four such settings, all of them printed in 1626. They reveal a completely unknown aspect of his work, making him comparable with other contemporary masters, such as Pierre Lauverjat, Jean de Bournonville, Hugues de Fontenay (by whom a hitherto unknown mass appears in the same book) and later Henri Frémart (who also worked in Rouen). As expected, Titelouze gives free rein to his contrapuntal skills, but without hesitating to embrace a less rigorous, more Italianate style at times.
Édition : Jean-Yves Haymoz