The choir and its core identity
A strong sense of identity marked by rigour, curiosity and passion
Founded thirty years ago, the Regional Île-de-France Vittoria Choir has stood the test of time thanks to a strong sense of identity marked by rigour, curiosity and passion, an identity that has set it apart from other choirs and secured its place among the great oratorio choirs of France. Established in 1987 at the initiative of the Île-de-France regional council, the beating heart of this choir is made up of its some seventy amateur members. Drawn from across the Paris region, members are selected not just on the basis of their vocal talent but also on the basis of their underlying motivation: with rehearsals taking place twice a week, productions that are often demanding and a rich program of events often featuring little-performed works, they are each required to make a considerable commitment in a demanding environment.
A deep affinity with French music
Since 2011, the Choir has been under the joint direction of artistic director Michel Piquemal, who has been with the Choir since the very beginning, and associate conductor Boris Mychajliszyn. Together they decide on the broad thematic directions as well as the repertoire and collaborations, and also regularly direct concerts together.
« Although we each have our own musical personality, we share the same vision, » explains Mychajliszyn. « The Choir also shares this vision. »
Both Piquemal and Mychajliszyn share a deep affinity with French music, and they love to take the path less travelled in pursuit of lesser-known composers like Martial Caillebotte, Jean Cras and Joseph-Guy Ropartz.
« For the both audience and the Choir, I try to strike a balance between material they already like and new unexplored works, » explains Piquemal. « I want to offer the widest possible choice. »
Although the Vittoria Choir would never deprive itself of the pleasure of singing Bach, Mozart or Rossini, it is relentless in its exploration of less travelled paths that lead to new discoveries and new works.
An ambassador of excellence in France and abroad
The Choir’s primary role may be to popularise classical music throughout the Île-de-France, especially in relation to choral singing, yet its work extends beyond this specific region and has led to it taking on the role of ambassador of excellence both in France and abroad. Inquisitive explorer, initiator of audacious, often interdisciplinary projects, with a discography that reflects its open-minded outlook and for which it has received numerous awards – most notably a prestigious Victoire de la Musique Classique award in 1998 for its recording of Honegger’s King David – the Vittoria Choir is regularly sought after by leading professional orchestras and conductors, as well as by artists and the various support structures that underpin cross-disciplinary projects.
As an oratorio, the Vittoria Choir is naturally drawn to an « intimate » repertoire, more in keeping with the voices of its some seventy members, and has a predilection for piano-accompanied works. Broadly encompassing five centuries of music, from sacred to secular, Tallis to Decoust, the Choir’s repertoire also includes the Viennese classics (Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven), the romantics Berlioz, Saint-Saëns, Bizet, Brahms and Schubert as well as Britten, Orff, Poulenc and Duruflé.
The choice of pieces has been largely influenced by the curious and open mindset of the Choir’s artistic director.
« Choirs often find themselves locked into a very classical repertoire, » explains Michel Piquemal. « I like to explore uncharted waters –which is what we’ve done with the likes of Tomasi, Ropartz, Cras and Caillebotte – and showcase works that deserve an audience. Our task is to open our audience’s minds to new music while also respecting the preferences of our singers. »
« We have this reputation for ‘discovering’ new works, » recounts Boris Mychajliszyn, « which is something that also sets us apart from other choirs. »
The Choir’s rediscovery of the music of Martial Caillebotte over the past seven years has been a real adventure, and has already resulted in three separate recordings.
The Vittoria Choir also loves to collaborate with others, in particular, contemporary composers like Raymond Alessandrini, Olivier Calmel, Juan José Mosalini, David Alagna and Anthony Girard.
« It is important to explore the music of our time, understand the masterpieces of the past, and look to where the music of today will lead us in the future, » concludes Piquemal.
Ave Verum Corpus
nata lux de lumine
Johann Christian BACH
Der Mensch, vom Weibe geboren
Psaume 1 (extrait des Psaumes de David)
Johann Sebastian BACH
Ich lasse dich nicht , Messe en sol mineur
Dernière Messe des Vivants
Messe Nelson , Messe Sainte-Cécile , Die Schöpfung (La Création)
Ave Verum , Cantates maçonniques , Grand Messe Solennelle en ut mineur , Messe brève en ut majeur dite « du couronnement », Requiem
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Messe en ut
L’Enfance du Christ , Requiem
Ein deutsches Requiem (Un Requiem Allemand)
Messe en mi mineur , Te Deum
Messe solennelle de Pâques, Dies Irae, Psaume 132 – Ecce quam bonum
Messe de Chimay
Sancta Mater (extrait du Stabat Mater) , Requiem « Seele, vergiss sie nicht »
Messe en ré majeur, Psaume 149, Te Deum
Cantique de Jean Racine , Requiem
Ave Maria , Gallia , Messe solennelle en l’honneur de Saint-Cécile , Requiem , Saint-François d’Assise
Geistliche Lieder , Lauda Sion , Psaume 42 , Vespergesang
Missa di Gloria
Trois psaumes pour double chœur , Drei Chöre
Petite Messe Solennelle , Stabat Mater
Le Déluge , Motets , Oratorio de Noël , Psaume 18 , Requiem
Der 23 Psalm
Lied (op. 29) , Requiem pour Mignon
Sir Charles Villiers STANFORD
David ALAGNA (1973)
Le Dernier Jour d’un Condamné
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1965)
A Boy was Born , A Hymn to the Virgin , The Succession of the Four Sweet Months , The SycamoreTree
Hymne en l’honneur d’une sainte , Messe à quatre voix mixtes , Regina Cœli
AdoroTe , Chant de Pâques , Missa Solemnior
Gloria , Litanies à la Vierge Noire , Stabat Mater
Psaume 129 « De Profundis » , Dimanche , Le Miracle de Saint Nicolas , Les Vêpres sonnent , Messe brève en l’honneur de Sainte-Anne , Nocturne , Psaume 136 , Requiem
Symphonie de Psaumes , Variations chorales
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
The Blessed Son of God
Messe solennelle en ut dièse mineur
Sir William WALTON
A little Jazz Mass
Raymond ALESSANDRINI (2006)
Eleusis, De l’ombre à la lumière
Cantate de la Résurrection
Trois poèmes liturgiques
John BENNET (1599)
Weep, O mine Eyes
Now is the Month of Maying
Pas encore exploré
Die Beredsamkeit (L’éloquence) , Der Greis (Le vieillard) , Die Harmonie in der Ehe (L’harmonie dans le mariage) , Die Jahreszeiten (Les Saisons)
Thamos, roi d’Égypte
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Fantaisie pour piano, chœur et orchestre ; « Mer calme et voyage heureux » pour chœur et orchestre; 9e Symphonie
La Damnation de Faust
Georges BIZET (1872)
Alt-Rhapsodie (Rhapsodie pour contralto et chœur d’hommes) ; Begräbnisgesang (Chant funèbre) ; Geistliches Lied ; Schicksalslied (Chant du Destin) ; Nänie
La Veuve du Roi Basque
Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien , Salut Printemps
Olivo e Pasquale
Sir Edward ELGAR
As Torrents in Summer
Les Djinns , Madrigal , Pavane , Pleurs d’or , Le Ruisseau
Symphonie n°2 « Résurrection »
La Première Nuit de Walpurgis , Notturno
I Gondolieri ; La Passeggiata
Calme des Nuits , Chanson d’Ancêtre , Chanson de Grand-Père , La Nuit , La Lyre et la Harpe
Prométhée ou le Poème du Feu
Begräbnislied , Coronach , Der Gondolfahrer , Der 23 Psalm , Die Nacht , Gott in der Natur , Im Gegenwärtigen Vergangenes , Ständchen pour mezzo-soprano et chœur de femmes
Die Capelle , Spruch , Triolett , Der Wassermann
Im stillen Friedhof
Trois chansons bretonnes
Hymne au soleil , La source , Les sirènes , Pour les funérailles d’un soldat , Renouveau , Soleils de septembre
Cinq Poèmes de Senghor
Les chemins retrouvés
Paraphrase pour la dédicace
Manuel DE FALLA
La Vie Brève
Les Planètes , Soft and Gently
Le Roi David
A Survivor from Warshaw
Le messager des étoiles
Les Mains Déliées
Le Colosse de Mahdia
The Vittoria Choir continually eschews the beaten path to explore new artistic horizons – from collaborating with the Puy du Fou historical theme park, to recording a film score, to performing Carmina Burana by Carl Orff at the Palais des Congrès convention centre together with the National Ballet of China.
Dance often features heavily in the Choir’s productions. To celebrate the launch of its CD recording of MisaTango by Martín Palmeri (2017, Hortus) – a joyful mass with Latin-American rhythms and melodies recorded with the Pasdeloup Orchestra – the Vittoria Choir decided to call on two Argentine dancers. A chance encounter with contemporary choreographer Julien Lestel led to the conception of a true spectacle of music and dance, entitled MisaTango – Messe en mouvement (A mass in motion) performed at the Opéra de Massy in March 2018.
The Choir also joined forces with an equestrian theatre company run by famed horse trainer Bartabas to collaborate on Mozart’s Requiem. The original performance, initiated in 2017 as part of the Mozart Week festival in Salzburg, was brought to new musical heights with the Vittoria Choir at the Grande halle de La Villette in May 2018, with riders and horses from the Equestrian Academy of Versailles taking part in a masterful ballet to the rhythm of Czerny’s 19th-century arrangement for choir and four-hand piano. The result was a magnificent liturgy of choral voices combined with the grace and power of these majestic animals.
MICHEL PIQUEMAL, making his voice heard
« For me, the term ‘sharing’ is a very important concept and inextricably linked with music. I am compelled to share with others. »
This admission by Michel Piquemal reveals all there is to know about the person, the singer, the conductor, the artistic director: everything he does, everything he experiences, with an intensity firmly rooted in the present moment, is solely for the purpose of sharing with others, communicating, passing on. And because, Piquemal still has this passion to communicate, and a mindset that is open and curious, everything he shares is at once rich and generous.
At a very young age, Michel Piquemal took up piano and singing lessons. Just as he was starting secondary school, he joined the prestigious Maîtrise de Radio France choir school (then called Radio Nationale), where he was to become a solo singer. Gifted with the voice of an angel, he made his first televised appearance in December 1960, performing Gilbert Bécaud’s cantata L’Enfant à l’étoile under the direction of Georges Prêtre.
As a young adult, he trained his baritone voice under the prestigious tutelage of Henri Martelli, Denise Duval and Pierre Bernac. Close acquaintances of Poulenc and familiar with his works, Denise Duval and Pierre Bernac instructed Piquemal in the art of melody and inspired in him a deep love of French music. With his solo career soaring from strength to strength, and focusing more on concert and recital performances than opera, Piquemal was also regularly invited to take part in televised broadcasts hosted by Jacques Chancel, Jacques Martin (« Une grande rencontre ») and Ève Ruggieri. Even then Piquemal found himself strongly drawn toward lesser known repertoires and forgotten composers, a preference he holds to this day.
NURTURER OF TALENT
As a former student, Piquemal was asked to return to the Maîtrise de Radio France as a teacher. On leaving this prestigious choir school, he then joined the teaching staff at the Paris Conservatory (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris). With great generosity, he passed on his knowledge, his experience and his wealth of musical talent and personal wisdom.
He would soon be presented with another means of passing on his talent: the choir. This was to be a new direction he would embrace, initially through his « Ensemble Vocal », and later through the Regional Île-de-France Vittoria Choir, which he has been directing since it was formed in 1987. « I was never able to choose between singing and directing, so I divided my musical career accordingly, » he explains. He also honed his skills as an orchestra conductor, the aim being to embrace all musical genres that inspire him.
AN INSATIABLE PIONEER
Given his insatiable appetite for music of all genres, Piquemal’s dream was to explore uncharted waters, and never to limit himself to a single repertoire.
« I love all forms and all styles of music, » he explains. « There is as much beauty in jazz as there is in modern or classical music. I’m not interested in specialising in one particular area; I prefer to remain open to everything there is. »
For example, for the past seven years Piquemal has been working with the Vittoria Choir on reviving public interest in the musical works of Martial Caillebotte, brother of the impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte. He has recorded three albums, including the Messe solennelle de Pâques, widely acclaimed by critics as an important rediscovery. The release of a CD recording of Martín Palmeri’s MisaTango in 2017 shone a spotlight onto the works of the Argentine composer and resulted in immediate, almost universal acclaim.
In terms of career highlights, Piquemal could point to any number of career-defining moments, but the list would be too long.
« Everything I do, I do with passion. Everything is important, rooted in the present moment. »
BORIS MYCHAJLISZYN, facing the music
Boris Mychajliszyn and Michel Piquemal first crossed musical paths twenty-odd years ago, while the young Mychajliszyn was completing his military service. In the years that followed that first meeting, Mychajliszyn gave up his scientific career and went on to become assistant director of the « Ensemble Vocal Michel Piquemal » in 1998, member of the Regional Île-de-France Vittoria Choir and, in 2011, associate director of that same choir.
AN UNUSUAL CAREER PATH
Having studied chemistry, Boris Mychajliszyn was destined for a career in science. However, this didn’t take into account the musical training he received as a teenager at a conservatoire where he studied piano and singing. In 1991, Mychajliszyn returned to taking singing lessons (with Anna-Maria Bondi) and choral conducting lessons (with Évelyne Schwab and Yves Parmentier), and succeeded in mastering the two with great aplomb.
« Everything changed the year I did my military service, » he explains, » which I spent with the Republican Guard, in the Armed Forces Choir. There I had the chance to meet different directors, one of whom was Michel Piquemal. »
The two men found themselves singing from the same hymn sheet from the get-go.
MEETING MICHEL PIQUEMAL
Mychajliszyn said goodbye to his scientific career and never looked back. Between 1991 and 2013, he directed several amateur and professional vocal groups, including the Chœur français d’Opéra, the Chœur des universités de Paris and the Conservatoire Municipal Charles Münch choir in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. In 1996, he obtained his secondary-school teaching diploma in music education and choral singing. In 1998, Michel Piquemal sought him out for the role of assistant director of his Ensemble Vocal group, before appointing him as associate director of the Regional Île-de-France Vittoria Choir in 2011. That same year, he was awarded the distinction of Knight of the Order of Academic Palms (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques). From this point on, the two men’s paths were closely linked.
Music is now the sole focus for Mychajliszyn, giving him the opportunity to work with notable names such as Jean-Claude Casadesus, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Jacques Mercier, John Nelson, Michel Plasson and Yutaka Sado, as well as the chance to direct the Lithuanian National Orchestra, the Musique principale de l’Armée de Terre, the Orchestre lyrique de Paris and the Charles Münch orchestra. Each summer, he leads the Sylvanès Abbey choir and orchestra academy (Académie de chœur et d’orchestre de l’abbaye de Sylvanès).
MENTORING AND ENRICHING YOUNG CHOIRS
Mychajliszyn’s teaching skills are widely respected. In 2005, he was appointed to the role of artistic and musical director of the Hauts-de-Seine chamber choir, a training academy for young choral singers who study choral singing or participate in a specialised music study programme. Since 2007, Mychajliszyn has been serving as musical director at the Legion of Honour as well as director of the Legion of Honour girls’ choir in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Recipient of the title of Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), in 2017 he was selected as artistic and musical director of the various children’s training programmes and choirs grouped under the Maîtrise de Paris choir.