Jehan Titelouze

(1563/4 - 1633)

French composer of Netherlandish descent. He was born in St Omer, which was technically not in France at the time of his birth, but part of the south Netherlands. By 1585 he had entered the priesthood and served as organist of the St Omer Cathedral. Titlouze spent most of his career in Rouen, becoming organist atthe church of S. Jean in 1585 and at the cathedral from 1588; acquired French citizenship in 1604, and was knowledgeable on instrument-making and musical theory, corresponding with Mersenne and supervising the building of organs. In 1600 Titelouze invited the famous Franco-Flemish organ builder Crespin Carlier to Rouen to work on the cathedral organ. The result of this collaboration was referred to by contemporary critics as the best organ in France. This instrument and Carlier's later work in France defined the French classical organ. Titelouze occasionally collaborated with Carlier on various instruments. He was an important, if conservative, composer of organ music, issuing volumes of organ hymns and fugues, Hymnes d'l'Eglise (1623) and organ Magnificats on the eight plainsong tones Le Magnificat (1626). Though the hymns use a variation technique, and Titelouze's subtle dissonance treatment looks forward to the era of tonality, his art belongs in the realm of traditional polyphony, with its continuous part-writing and artful contrapuntal device. He also wote wrote several sacred vocal compositions, now lost.

Titelouze was a friend of Marin Mersenne, an important French music theorist, mathematician, philosopher and theologian. Seven letters survive from their correspondence, from 1622-1633. Titelouze gave Mersenne advice on L'Harmonie Universelle, published from 1634 to 1637. Although the strict polyphonic style of Titelouze's music soon disappeared from French organ music, his influence was still felt for some time after his death; for instance, the Parisian composer and organist Nicolas Gigault included a fugue à la maniere de Titelouze (literally "in Titelouze's style") in his 1685 Livre de musique pour l'orgue. Some three hundred years later, the composer inspired one of Marcel Dupré's organ works, Le Tombeau de Titelouze, op. 38 (1942)

A Partial Jehan Titelouze Discography |  IVE: Music for Organ and Lute  |  Home

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