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"Le Salon de Musique de Marie-Antoinette"

Isabelle Poulenard, sopranoa; Jean-François Lombard, tenorb; Amélie Michel, transverse flutec; Stéphanie Paulet, violind; Sandrine Chatron, harpe

rec: June 2008, Paris, Cité de la Musique (Musée de la Musique)
Ambroisie - AM 179 (© 2009) (77'35")

Jean-Baptiste CARDON (1760-1803): Sonata in E flat, op. 7,1e; Antoine DAUVERGNE (1713-1797): C'est une folie d'avoir tant d'appâtsbde; La beauté pour qui je brûlebde; Tircis et Cloris s'absentent chaque jour de leur troupeauabde; Jan Ladislav DUSSEK (1760-1812) (attr): Sonatina nr 5 in F (C d164)e [2]; Christoph Willibald VON GLUCK (1714-1787): Orphée, opera: Malheureux, qu'ai-je fait? - J'ai perdu mon Euridice, rec & ariabe; André-Ernest-Modeste GRÉTRY (1741-1813): La Caravane du Caire, opera: Malgré la fortune cruelle, duetabde; Jean-Baptiste KRUMPHOLTZ (1742-1790): L'amante abandonnée, air parodié sur l'Adagio de l'opus 14ade; La nuit profondebe; Sonate en forme de scène de mezzo caractère in F, op. 15,2de [1]; MARIE-ANTOINETTE (1755-1793): C'est mon amiae; Jean-Paul-Égide MARTINI (1741-1816): Plaisir d'amourabcde; Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791): Adagio for glass harmonica in C (KV 356/617a)e; Oiseaux, si tous les ans (KV 307/284d)ae; Giovanni PAISIELLO (1740-1816): Il re Teodoro in Vénézia, opera: Entractee; Francesco PETRINI (1744-1819): Les Folies d'Espagne, et 12 variations, op. 28e; Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier DE SAINT-GEORGES (1745-1799): Sonata in E flatce

(Sources: [1] Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz, 4 sonates en forme de scènes de différens caractères, op. 15, c1788; [2] Jan Ladislav Dussek, 6 Sonatinas, 1799)

For a long time the interest in French music of the 17th and 18th century was restricted to the music of the late 17th and the first half of the 18th century. It is only fairly recently that the repertoire from the second half of the 18th century is given some attention. Recently operas by one of the main composers of that era, André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry, have been released, conducted by Hervé Niquet and Guy Van Waas respectively. Grétry was the personal favourite of Marie-Antoinette, who was an ardent lover of music, and played the harpsichord and the harp.

Therefore it isn't surprising that Grétry is included in the programme at this disc which is devoted to music played in the salons in France in Marie-Antoinette's time. Even less surprising is that it centres around the harp, the instrument Marie-Antoinette played herself and which enjoyed an increasing popularity during the second half of the 18th century. Initially harpists played music which was originally written for the keyboard, but gradually composers started to write specifically for the harp. This was also the result of the develpments in the construction of the harp. Sébastien Érard (1752-1831), the founder of the firm of piano manufacturers, played an important role in the development of the harp. His main innovation was the replacement of the hooks (crochets) by forks (fourchets), "little metal discs mounted with two prongs which block the string without deflecting it", as Joël Dugot, keeper at the Musée de la Musique in Paris, explains in the booklet. Érard also built more solid harps with better designed and more reliable actions.

But it was a composer who had strong influence on Érards work as a builder of harps. Jean-Baptiste Krumpholtz was one of many musicians from Bohemia. As so many of his compatriots he was first educated as a hornist, but then decided to concentrate on the harp instead, the instrument his mother played. He came into contact with various composers who recommended him to Haydn, who took him as a pupil in composition and included him as harpist in the Esterházy orchestra. In 1776 Haydn encouraged him to make a concert tour through Europe. In 1777 he arrived in Paris where he not only met Érard but also the harp maker Jean-Henri Nadermann (1734-1799). Krumpholtz was generally considered the most brilliant harpist of his time. His compositions for the instrument are still valued highly.

The harp became a fashionable instrument and various composers wrote music for it. One of them was Jan Ladislav Dussek, also of Bohemian origin and mainly famous as a virtuoso on the fortepiano. For a number of his compositions the fortepiano and the harp are indicated as alternatives. Jean-Baptiste Cardon was a harpist himself, and he dedicated his four sonatas opus 7 to Marie-Antoinette. Francesco Petrini was the son of a German harpist who was at the service of Frederick the Great of Prussia; Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach composed his only harp sonata for him. His son Francesco went to Paris where he composed a large oeuvre for harp, both solo and in combination with other instruments.

In addition much music was arranged for harp, sometimes in combination with instruments like the violin and the transverse flute. As elsewhere in Europe arias from operas were especially popular among arrangers. These arias as well as original songs were part of the repertoire played in the salons of the bourgeoisie.

This disc presents an interesting and entertaining survey of the music which was popular at the time of Marie-Antoinette. Some of the most fashionable composers of the time are represented, among them also Gluck - whose success in Paris was largely due to Marie-Antoinette's support -, Mozart, Paisiello and De Saint-Georges. Sandrine Chatron plays a single-action harp which was built by Érard in 1799. The importance of this disc isn't only that it gives some idea of the repertoire played in the second half of the 18th century in France. Whereas the role of the harp in 17th-century Italian music is now fully recognized and the instrument is often used in recordings of such repertoire, the harp in the 18th century, in particular in France, is not given much attention. Hopefully that will change, because this disc shows that the late 18th-century harp is a very fine instrument, and there is some good music written for it.

All participants in this recording deliver fine performances, turning this programme into a highly interesting and musically captivating affair. Strongly recommended.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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Isabelle Poulenard

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