Unaccompanied Choral Music of Pierre Villette: A Conductor’s Analysis

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This study examines all fifteen unaccompanied motets by French composer Pierre Villette (1926-1998). The work includes documentation of the composer’s personal attributes, discussion of text-music relationships, exploration of compositional style, and practical observations for performance.


One of the most exciting aspects of Dr. Burton’s research is that he was able to capitalize on the opportunity to consult primary sources such as the composer’s manuscripts and compare them with published editions, ferreting out inconsistencies that impact performance and interpretation. The convergence of fine scholarship and performance practice is clearly defined, well documented, and supported. On another note, with the exception of one piece, Hymne à la Vierge, the majority of Pierre Villette’s unaccompanied choral music remains fairly unfamiliar to audiences in the U.S. though most of it is of very high quality, all of it is professionally recorded and fourteen of the fifteen works are still in print. Bringing important international music to our ensemble is of crucial importance and this pioneering work bears special relevance to a far-reaching audience through the universal medium of choral singing. Moreover, this groundbreaking study is sure to inspire additional research on this significant Twentieth Century composer and pedagogue. I was thrilled to be introduced to many of Pierre Villette’s a cappella motets and will seriously consider appropriate places for many of them on upcoming choral concerts. My hearty congratulations and thanks to Sean Burton for his hard work, important scholarship, and insight.” – Prof. Peter A. Eklund, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Sean Burton’s study of these compositions is a practical and meaningful contribution to the literature of our discipline. Though Pierre Villette never received widespread attention or acclaim, Burton has brought meaningful and substantive choral music to our attention. A list of published editions and a cross-reference with settings of the same texts by other composers are thoughtful additions that will encourage directors to program the featured motets. . . . Many thanks to Dr. Burton for this revealing study and for contributing to knowledge of and access to this beautiful and intriguing music.” - Prof. James D. Niblock, Colgate University

“. . . an outstanding guide that gives very practical advice on intonation, Latin pronunciation, tempo selection, and programming. . . . It is a quality text that all choral directors should own.” - Prof. Matthew C. Harden, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Peter A. Eklund
1. Biography of Pierre Villette (1926-1998)
2. Analysis of the Early Motets, 1944-1960
3. Analysis of the Second Period Motets, 1983-1991
4. Analysis of the Late Motets, 1992-1995
5. Considerations for Rehearsal and Performance
1. Selected List of Latin Motet Settings by Other Composers
2. Contact Information for Foreign Publishers
3. Notes from Interview with Anne and Josette Villettte
General Index
Index of Villette Compositions

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