Art & Musique - the elusive internet-free record label

After much posting about online distribution platforms and file downloads here is a refreshing story about an internet free record label.

On recent visits to France I picked up some very interesting CD’s from Arts & Musique which appears to be a small independent label specialising in organ, plainchant and related repertoire. Oeuvres Mariales (AM/CD 107/39801) is a very enterprising CD which combines some rare organ music with plainchant celebrating the Virgin Mary. The recording is made in the Benedictine Abbey of Notre-Dame in Fontgombault (see picture above) to the west of Poitiers. The Abbey is linked is part of the congregation of Solesmes which has contributed so much to the scholarship of Gregorian Chant.

The organ at Fontgombault is a new instrument which took ten years work to build with the work shared between M. Michel Jouve, an organ builder from the Jura, and the monks themselves. The Bendictines have a strong tradition in organ building. In the 18th century the Benedictine monk Dom Francois Bedos de Celles became a recognised authority on organs, and worked on many of the great instruments in cities in France including Paris, Tours, Clermont-Ferrand and the wonderful instrument in the former abbey church of Sainte-Croix, Bordeaux which has recently been restored. In 1778 Dom Bedos' highly influential survey of the French classical organ of the 18th century, L'Art du Facteur d'Orgues, was published. Quite remarkably this 250 year old text is still recognised as the definitive work on its subject. A facsimile of the book (in French) including original engravings is available for purchase from the web site of, while fascinating extracts (in French) including some of the beautiful original engravings (see above) are available online through this link.

For the Fontgombault recital the organist Francois Clement has put together a programme of rarely heard organ music from Dufay, Lassus, Buchner and Simon Ple which spans the 15th to 20th centuries. The organ music is alternated with beautiful and atmospheric Marian chants sung by the monks of the Abbey who totally contradict Tallis Scholar’s founder Peter Philip’s assertion in his recent book that monks cannot produce the technical quality required for commercial recordings. The CD comes with first class documentation in English, French and German which includes a full technical specification for the organ.

Equally entrancing is 4 Siecles d’Orgue et Guitare (Four centuries of the organ and guitar, AM/CD 1071 39808) recorded in the beautiful church of Saint Michel et Saint Pierre of Malaucene in the Vaucluse which dates from 1309 (see picture to the right). The organ is truly historic as its origins date from 1637. The programme is another rare and enterprising one featuring combinations of organ and guitar played by organist Viviane Loriaut, and guitarists Patrick de Beleville and Dominique Rue. The composers are Ponce, de Cabezon, d’Indy, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, Challula, Segovia (yes the guitarist), Racquet, Rodrigo, Frescobaldi and Boccherini. The programme notes are unfortunately French only, but it is nice to see the local gendarmerie being thanked for stopping the traffic outside the church when the recording was being made! I know a number of PSB broadcasters read this blog, and I urge them to seek this CD out for the Rodrigo which includes an arrangement for guitar and organ of three movements from the popular Fantasia para un gentilhomme. It may sound unlikely on paper (on the screen?), but works a treat on disc, and I am sure would be a listener favourite.

But here is the sting. I can find no internet presence at all for Art & Musique. The sleeves give the following address and phone details – BP 808, 49008 Angers, phone/fax 02 41 88 74 92. And Amazon France doesn’t seem to list their CD’s either. But the very useful France-Orgue site does give a listing of their organ recordings. A collaboration by On An Overgrown Path readers managed to solve the mystery of the Nazi photographs taken by Siegfried Lauterwasser, who was Karajan’s personal photographer post-war. Can anyone help with web site details for Art & Musique? Meanwhile buying from one of the excellent online monastery stores such as the one at the Abbey at Solesmes seems to be the only way to get hold of these highly recommended discs, unless you personally visit the very good book and CD shop in Vaison la Romaine, or the Abbey Ste Madeleine at Le Barroux.

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Pliable said…
See Art & Musique - found for the happy ending to this story.

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