FAURÉ Gabriel and MESSAGER André, Messe des Pêcheurs de Villerville

Kyrie (Messager) 
Gloria (Fauré) 
Sanctus (Fauré) 
O salutaris (Messager) 
Agnus Dei (Fauré) 

In August 1881, Fauré and Messager were staying with their friends, Camille and Marie Clerc at their summer home in the fishing village of Villerville, on the Normandy coast between Trouville and Honfleur. They had the idea of composing a collaborative Mass to be sung by the women and girls of the village, joined by those on holiday there, for an event to benefit the local fishermen. Preceded by a procession through the village by the fishermen themselves, the first performance was given at the Parish Mass on 3 September 1881 in Villerville’s twelfth-century church with accompaniment for harmonium and violin. A year later Fauré and Messager were again staying with the Clercs and decided to expand the instrumentation for flute, oboe, clarinet, strings and harmonium or organ. Fauré orchestrated the Agnus Dei and Messager took care of the rest and a second performance, using the new version, was given on 10 September 1882. The Fauré scholar Jean-Michel Nectoux has described the work as ‘a little holiday mass’, its music ‘so limpid and so lyrical … delicate, melodious and gentle’. The manuscript remained in the possession of the Clerc family for many years. In 1906, Fauré prepared his Messe basse which used some material from the work, but the original Fauré–Messager Mass was revived in 1980. In 1985, the descendants of the Clerc family donated the manuscript of the Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and this enchanting work was eventually published in 2000.  


© Nigel Simeone 


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