musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Nicolas CHÉDEVILLE (1705 - 1782): Le Printems ou Les Saisons Amusantes

Les Eclairs de Musique

rec: Sept 2 - 4, 2001, Permunia (Padova), Abbazia
Arts - 47669-8 (© 2008) (54'15")

Concerto in C 'Le Printems'; Concerto in C 'Les Plaisirs de l'Été'; Concerto in C 'Les Plaisirs de St. Martin'; Concerto in c minor 'L'Hiver'; Concerto in G 'L'Automne'; Concerto in g minor 'La Moisson'

Matthias Loibner, hardy-gurdy; Chiara de Ziller, recorder; Pietro Giudice, oboe; Enrico Casazza, violin; Carlo Zanardi, cello; Fabio Conte, violone; Pietro Prosser, guitar; Chiara de Zuani, harpsichord

Arranging music was a very wide-spread practice in the 18th century. The reasons were various: sometimes musicians made arrangements in order to be able to play music they liked on their own instrument. Sometimes publishers made arrangements to increase sales. But the 18th century also saw the emergence of the bourgeoisie as an important factor in cultural life. As playing an instrument was part of their lifestyle there was an increasing demand for music of good quality but not too technically complicated. After all members of the bourgoisie were no virtuosos. A composer like Telemann delivered what these dilettantes were asking for.

Others made almost a living by arranging music for such dilettantes. One of them was Nicolas Chédeville, who - like two of his five brothers - was a player of the musette. The Chédeville family was related to one of France's most extended and famous musical families, the Hotteterres. From the early 1720's until 1748 Nicolas Chédeville was a member of the orchestra of the Paris opera as a player of the oboe and the musette. He also acted as a teacher of the musette. His compositions, the first of which were printed in 1729, were mainly written for amateurs playing for their own entertainment. This is reflected in the titles of many of his collections of music, whose titles often contain the word amusement or amusantes.

Chédeville not only composed music, he also arranged music by other composers. During the 1730's he became especially interested in Italian music. In 1739 the publisher Jean-Noël Marchand printed a collection of sonatas under the title Il pastor fido opus 13, apparently by Antonio Vivaldi. But in 1749 he revealed that Chédeville was the real composer. As the musette is among the instruments mentioned in this collection it is suggested this was an attempt to increase the status of the musette as a serious instrument.

In 1739 Chédeville was granted the privilege to print his arrangements of music by Italian composers. But only two collections of such arrangements are known, the Sonatas opus 4 by Evaristo Felice dall'Abaco and the six concertos by Vivaldi recorded here. Vivaldi was one of the most famous composers of his time, and since the publication of the 'Four Seasons' in 1720 in Amsterdam these concertos were his most popular works. It doesn't surprise, then, that Chédeville took the opportunity to arrange them. These arrangements reflect the growing popularity of Italian music in general, and Vivaldi in particular, in France.

These arrangements are no direct transcriptions of the four concertos which are known as the 'Four Seasons'. Only the first of the series, Spring, is arranged in its entirety. The concerto Chédeville called L'Automne (the Autumn) is an arrangement of several movements from Vivaldi's Concertos 3 and 4 (Autumn and Winter respectively). The other four concertos are arrangements of (movements of) other concertos from the opus 8 by Vivaldi, which included the Four Seasons. The second concerto, called Les Plaisirs de l'Été, for instance, is an arrangement of movements from Vivaldi's Concertos 10 and 12. The title tells something about Chédeville's objective. Whereas Vivaldi also pays attention to the dark sides of the seasons - like the heat of the summer - Chédeville concentrates entirely on the happy side, as the title 'The Pleasure of the Summer' indicates. This is what one expects from a composer whose collections of music often contain the word amusante.

This doesn't mean there is no expression at all, as the slow movements of Le Printems and Les Plaisirs de St. Martin show. One also needs to realise that amusement doesn't necessarily indicate 'easy listening', let alone 'great fun'. Entertainment in the 18th century doesn't exclude expression, although too much depth may be avoided. Although Chédeville simplified the concertos, they still require considerable technical skills. Apparently the dilettantes of those days had that kind of skills.

These concertos are scored for three treble instruments: musette or hurdy-gurdy, flute and violin. The recorder and the oboe which are also present in this recording are not mentioned, but it is fully legitimate to use them. The recorder is probably the least convincing choice, considering the fact that the heydays of the recorder were long gone at the time these concertos were published. In a way it is a shame the musette - Chédeville's own instrument - is entirely left out. Its inclusion had given this disc even more variety. But the way the hurdy-gurdy is played here is very impressive. In the slow movement of Le Printems it plays the solo part and here it shows that it is more than an instrument to play dance music and simple melodies. It makes the hurdy-gurdy's entrance in the chamber music and cantatas by the most famous composers of the early 18th century understandable.

Considering the amount of arrangement and reworking of Vivaldi's concertos it is remarkable how much of the original character has remained. Of course, if one wants to hear the real Vivaldi, one should listen to the originals. But Chédevilles arrangements are most enjoyable to listen to. That is also the merit of the performances: the players haven't fallen into the trap of making it just good fun; in particular the slow movements reflect the serious aspects of this collection. Even so: the main aim of Chédeville was to offer musical entertainment, and that is how one should listen to these concertos. The combination of instrumental colours and the imaginative performances of the ensemble are exactly what this repertoire needs.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

CD Reviews