(NAPOLEON). PAISIELLO, Giovanni and Jean-François LE SUEUR, composers. ~ Recueil des Messes de Mr. Paisiello […de Mr. Lesueur] pour le service de la chapelle de sa Majesté l’Empereur et Roi. [Paris], Lefebvre, bibliothécaire, [c. 1811-5].
Manuscript, 4to (248 × 200 mm), two parts in one, pp. ;  completed, plus numerous blank between and after, all carefully ruled with 12 5-staves, some very early additions/annotations. Contemporary straight grain red quarter morocco, spine lettered in gilt ‘Chapelle impériale’, orange paper covered boards, printed stationer’s label of Lavaillard, Place Vendôme. Some abrasion to paper sides but handsome.
A scored thematic catalogue of works composed for the Chapelle impériale by two imperial favourites, including masses by Paisiello for the marriage of Napoleon to Marie-Louise of Austria (2 April, 1810) and the baptism of Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, King of Rome, (later Napoleon II, June 1811). The manuscript provides the principle themes of 44 works in several bars, noting the forces (solos, choir, organ, flute, clarinet, organ etc) and often the name of the principle soloists among whose names we find Manent, Pelet, LeLong, Branchu, Says, Roland and Nourrit, leading singers of the imperial era. There are 20 named works by Paisiello and 24 by his successor LeSuer.
Naples-born Giovanni Paisiello was a firm Napoleonic favourite: he had been Catherine the Great’s composer in chief and had written for Joseph II at Vienna before his summons to Paris in 1802. In 1804 he composed the coronation mass and thereafter contributed regular works for the Chapelle, even after he had returned to Naples. Barely remembered today, his output was immense and he achieved fame all over Europe. Napoleon’s admiration is even recorded in a novella: in ‘... Clisson et Eugénie (1795) Napoleon has the main character compare his beloved to the music of Paisiello, « Eugénie was like a piece by Paisiello ; only those with souls attuned to his music are transported by it. The common people remain untouched »’ Peters, ‘Music at the Coronation of Napoleon’ (Fondation napoléon, Napoloeon.org).
Le Sueur was Paisiello’s successor and also achieved immense popularity at court and in Paris. He became an important to the next generation of French composers, counting Berlioz among pupils.
The manuscript is signed by the imperial music librarian/music seller: Jean-Baptiste-François-Augustin Lefebvre, ‘bibliothécaire et copiste, rue. Helvetius, n° 58’. An early owner has added several short comments on the quality of the music in some extracts: they are only partly favorable.