Charles d'Helfer's Missa pro defunctis : context and sources
Charles d'Helfer's Missa pro defunctis of 1656 was an unusual work for its time as it
retained its place in the repertory for over a century. Following its publication at least
two distinctly different versions of this stile antico work were prepared. This thesis
presents, for the first time, scholarly editions of these three versions of Charles
d'Helfer's Missa pro defunctis: the original of 1656 (F-Pc Res F. 741) and the two
versions with instrumental accompaniment (F-Pc D. 2713 and F-Pc H. 494 Ea-i).
Additionally, there are transcriptions of two further sources of the work which
comprise vocal parts and basse continue (F-Pc H. 490 a-g and F-Pc L. 18354). These
all appear in Volume II, complete with editorial procedure and critical commentaries.
Volume I of this thesis comprises contextual material. Chapter One discusses
d'Helfer's biography: d'Helfer held various posts at Soissons Cathedral and also
worked briefly at Saint-Germain I'Auxerrois, Paris. It presents details of the liturgical
context within which he was working and his other known works, all of which are
examples of Latin sacred music. Additionally, it summarizes what is known about the
performance history of the work, including its associations with the obsequies of Louis
XV. It also examines the suggestions that it was performed at the funerals of Simon
Legras (one-time bishop of Soissons), Rameau, Lalande and Anne of Austria.
Chapter Two presents an in-depth study of certain features of the original version of
d'Helfer's Requiem, including an analysis of stylistic features as well as a discussion
of the composer's use of texts and plainchants, notably his use of both Roman and
Parisian traditions. Chapters Three and Four survey the characteristics of each of the other sources and study how d'Helfer's music was subsequently manipulated. An
examination of the relationships between the various sources in Chapter Five sheds
some light on the order of preparation, and reveals that those sets comprising separate
parts were almost certainly not conceived as such.