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Jacques HOTTETERRE le Romain (1674 - 1763): Pièces pour la Flûte traversière avec la Basse: Premier Livre 1715

Carin van Heerden, recorder; Matthias Muller, viola da gamba; Johannes Bogner, harpsichord

rec: Oct 3 - 5, 2006, Bamberg, Studio Cavalli-Records
Cavalli Records - CCD 286 (© 2009) (62'40")

1er Suite in D; 2e Suite in G (transp to B flat); 3e Suite in G (transp to B flat); 4e Suite in e minor; 5e Suite in e minor (transp to g minor)

Jacques Martin Hotteterre was a member of a large familiy, which had its roots in Normandy. Since the early 17th century most of the Hotteterres devoted themselves to instrument making. In particular since some of them moved to Paris they had a strong influence on the technical development of wind instruments. They played a crucial role in the transformation of the renaissance instruments into their baroque counterparts.

Most of them were also playing instruments: at least six Hotteterres were playing under Lully's direction in the 1670s. Jacques Martin was also active as a player: he received an important position at the royal court, granting him a high social status. But instead of making wind instruments, he concentrated on composition and on teaching the transverse flute.

As a composer he was one of the first to write sonatas and suites for the transverse flute. One of the most important aspects of Hotteterre's playing and composing was the ornamentation, according to reports of his own performances as well as the second edition of his Premier Livre. There is also a strong Italian element in his oeuvre, which is particularly demonstrated by the trio sonatas opus 3. The catalogue of his private library gives further evidence of his interest in Italian music. This could be the reason he was nicknamed 'the Roman'.

It may surprise that the music of a composer who has devoted most of his time to playing the transverse flute is performed here on the recorder, an instrument whose popularity was waning after 1700. But there is ample justification for this. First, most composers were rather flexible in regard to the choice of instruments in the performance of their compositions. The title pages often refer to several instruments, like the Premier Livre opus 2 by Hotteterre recorded here: Pièces pour la flûte traversière, et autres instruments, avec la basse continuo (pieces for the transverse flute and other instruments with basso continuo). And on the title page of the trio sonatas opus 3 the recorder is specifically mentioned: Sonates en Trio pour les Flûtes Traversière, Flûtes à Bec, Violons, Hautbois etc. Secondly, in his treatise Principes de la Flûte traversière he devotes several pages to the recorder. He recommends transposition upwards if his music is to be played on the treble recorder.

And that is what Carin van Heerden does in this recording. Three of the suites have been transposed. The first edition of this book was published in 1708. In it the various movements were ordered by key (D, G and e minor) in three large suites. But in the revised edition of 1715 which is used here, he split each of the suites in G and in e minor into two. As a result two of the suites start with an allemande rather than a prélude.

The pieces are different in complexity and character, and that lends these suites a large amount of variation. Many pieces have titles, and they reflect the various sources of inspiration for Hotteterre in writing this music. They mostly refer to characters or to places in France, and in particular in Paris. They are explained in the comprehensive liner notes.

The performance of these suites on the recorder makes this disc a nice alternative to recordings on the transverse flute, for instance Philippe Allain-Dupré's (Naxos). Carin van Heerden and her colleagues deliver good performances and therefore this disc is enjoyable to listen to. But I wish the results of the research of the likes of Jed Wentz and Michael Form, in particular about the tempi in French baroque music, would bear some fruit in other recordings than their own. I could imagine some stronger contrasts in the tempi on this disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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