Boyvin?: Le Manuscrit Caumont

Jacques Boyvin?
Le Manuscrit Caumont Orgue
Ed. Jon Baxendale
231 pages • ISMN: 979-0-706670-18-8 (English hardback) •  979-0-706670-39-3 (English wire softback)
Lyrebird Music. LBMP–019

Le Manuscrit Caumont Orgue

This Lyrebird Music edition brings to life an important manuscript of French Classical organ music dated 1707. Its earlier provenance is unknown until it appeared in an auction in Normandy from where it passed on to an antique dealer in Amiens. It was bought from there in 2008 by the current owner, whose name has been attached to what is now known as Le Manuscrit Caumont. Very sensibly, given the quality of his other Lyrebird Music editions, the owner asked Jon Baxendale to research and edit the manuscript and produce this splendid edition.

The manuscript contains 111 pieces of organ music intended for use during the French Catholic liturgy with its use of alternatim, where verses of Mass and other settings were alternately either sung or played on the organ. Some of the pieces can be identified with known composers such as Boyvin, Lebegue, Nivers, Raison and Thomelin, but around 80 pieces are unique to this manuscript. In a very well-presented argument in the detailed preface, editor Jon Baxendale proposes Jacques Boyvin (c1649-1706) as the composer of these 80 pieces, adding to the 25 pieces that have versions in his two published books of organ works (1689 and 1700). The manuscript was possibly copied from a manuscript that Boyvin put together, which would explain why so many of his own pieces did not have his own name attached. Boyvin was born in Paris but spent the bulk of his career as organist of Rouen Cathedral, a successor to the famed Jean Titelouze from around 40 years earlier. He supervised the 1689 rebuilding of the four-manual Clicquot cathedral organ.

The manuscript is unusual compared to other organ books of the period in that the pieces are not arranged in any liturgical form, but are roughly in order of the genre of the pieces. The opening four Preludes are following by groups of pieces with titles of, for example, Fugue grave, Duo, Basse de Trompette, Dialogue. They are all in the church tones V and VI, suggesting the original presence of further volumes using the other tones. The length of the pieces varies from a few bars to 172 bars for the single named Offertory – the Grand Dialogue a trois ou quatre Chœurs avec le Tremblant a vent perdu.

The substantial preface explores the manuscript and its music and discusses such important performance issues as registration, fingering, notes inégales and ornamentation using sources contemporary to the manuscript itself. The notes on performance include the preface to Boyvin’s own 1680 organ book (with English translation), and includes the specification of his own Rouen organ. A section on the liturgical context of the music is included, with Nivers’ description of the use of the organ in the liturgy. A Critical Commentary includes notes on individual pieces as well as details of the variants between these pieces and other printed sources. The manuscript is remarkably accurate in terms of notes, so editorial amendments are minimal and clearly indicated. Ease of page turns is taken into account where possible.

As with other Lyrebird Music publications (reviewed here and here, with more reviews to come), the musical type is beautifully clear to read. It is in landscape format, and is available in English and French versions, and in hardback or wire-binding. The hardback version doesn’t take too much persuassion to lay flat on the music desk. The ISMN references for the French edition are 979-0-706670-19-5 (French hardback) and 979-0-706670-40-9 (French softback wire). Sample pages (with commentary from the French edition) can be seen on the Lyrebird Music website here. The following pieces are available as audio and score samples on the Lyrebird YouTube channel: Grand Dialogue a trois ou quatre Chœurs, Cornet, Tierce en taille, and Trio a 2. dessus.

This is the first of two Caumont manuscripts, the other being a book of harpsichord pieces in the same hand, much of which is also unknown. It will be published later this year.