Music in wax and gold. The organ universe of Jean-Louis Florentz by Ronald Stolk

by Ronald Stolk | Het ORGEL | Year 105 | (2009) | Issue 1

Ronald Stolk Music in wax and gold. The organ universe of Jean-Louis Florentz
Het ORGEL 104 (2009), nr. 1, 10-21 [summary]

Jean-Louis Florentz (1947–2004) was a composer and an ethnomusicologist. A synergy of African and European elements is characteristic for his œuvre, which includes music for orchestra, choir, violoncello and also four organ works. African elements are not simply used as ‘quotes’ in the organ works; they determine the musical form and the idiom. The result is a highly varied musical storytelling, in which African elements are melted together with elements from French symphonic organ music.
The variety of styles within its seven movements makes Lorentz’s Laudes (opus 5) the best starting place for getting acquainted with his work. Remarkable in Laudes is a completely new use of mutation stops. Florentz had strong ideas about ‘the organ of the future’, and a characteristic of his ideal organ was a large palette of aliquots.
Laudes is the middle movement of Le Livre du Pacte de Miséricorde (The Book of the Covenant of Mercy), a large-scale triptych composed by Florentz as an office in honor of St. Mary, inspired by the Ethiopian liturgy. The first and last movements of the triptych are compositions for vocal soloists, choir and orchestra. All three of the movements are largely based on Ethiopian texts. At the same time they are a musical commentary on the mysteries of the rosary, in particular the sorrowful mysteries. The seven movements of Laudes are ‘musical icons’ of the virgin who laments the persecuted church in Ethiopia. But the music expresses hope and expectation as well.
The Livre du Pacte de Miséricorde is brimful of Ethiopian and Western symbols and references. In connection with this network of allusions Florentz mentions ‘la technique de cire et or’ (the technique of wax and gold).