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Jean-François DANDRIEU (1681 - 1738): "Offertoires & Sonates en trio"

Jean-Baptiste Robin, organ
Ensemble Il Caravaggio (Camille Delaforge)

rec: July 8 - 11 & Dec 17 - 19, 2019, Versailles, Chapelle Royale
Château de Versailles Spectacles - CVS045 (© 2021) (73'09")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

Duo sur la Trompète; Offertoire in D (gravement); Offertoire in D (légèrement); Offertoire in D (marqué); Offertoire in d minor (gravement); Offertoire in d minor (marqué); Offertoire in G (gravement); Offertoire in G (marqué); Offertoire in g minor (gravement); Offertoire in g minor (marqué); Offertoire in A (allegro); Offertoire in A (gaiement); Offertoire in A (gravement); Offertoire in a minor (gravement); Offertoire in a minor (marqué)
Sonata in d minor, op. 1,1; Sonata in D, op. 1,2; Sonata in g minor, op. 1,3; Sonata in A, op. 1,4; Sonata in F, op. 1,5; Sonata in e minor, op. 1,6; Sonata op. 2,6 (vivace); Sonata in G op. 3 (allegro)

Sources: Livre de sonates en trio, op. 1, 1705; Livre de sonates, op. 2, 1710/R; Premier livre de pièces d'Orgue, 1739

Fiona Emilie Poupard, Anne Camillo, violin; Ronald Martin Alonso, viola da gamba; Benjamin Narvey, theorbo; Camille Delaforge, harpsichord, organ

Since 2009, the wonderful Royal Chapel in the castle of Versailles offers an annual programme of concerts, some of which are also released on disc. So far, the historical organ of 1710 by the Clicquot dynasty, and restored in the 1990s to its original state, was not documented on disc. The label Château de Versailles de Spectacles has planned a series of recordings of this instrument. In 2019 Jean-Baptiste Robin recorded a programme of Magnificat settings for organ by Jean-François Dandrieu. The disc under review is its sequel and brings together some of his organ works with a set of six trio sonatas published in 1705 as his Op. 1.

Dandrieu was born in Paris and received his first music lessons from his uncle, Pierre, organist of St Barthélemy, and probably also from Jean-Baptiste Moreau. From 1705 until his death he acted as organist of St Merry, a post earlier held by the famous Nicolas Lebègue. In the last years of his life he also succeeded to the position of his uncle at St Barthélemy. The German theorist Marpurg states that Dandrieu was called "the German organist", probably because of his preference for counterpoint which was associated with the German style. That comes to the fore in his two collections of trio sonatas which were printed in 1705 and 1710 respectively.

The former is the focus of the present disc and the combination with Offertoires makes much sense. These are mostly transcriptions of movements from the trio sonatas. The latter bear witness to Dandrieu's Italian leanings. The form of the trio sonata was of Italian origin and had received its standard texture in the oeuvre of Arcangelo Corelli, who published four collections of twelve sonatas each as his Op. 1 to 4. The titles of the movements in Dandrieu's trio sonatas already indicate the influence of Corelli. Almost all of them are in Italian: adagio, allegro, largo, vivace. Only the Sonatas 1 and 3 end with a dance, called gigue. The latter is largely based on a drone; it played here by the bass before the violins enter, which is not indicated in the score. The Sonata No. 6 is an exception: two of the five movements are dances with a French title: allemande and gavotte; the fourth movement is called sicilienne. However, stylistically these sonatas are entirely Italian. That comes especially to the fore in the slow movements with their Italian pathos. They also include quite some harmonic tension. A number of fast movements, in particular - as in the oeuvre of Corelli - the second movements, have the form of a fugue.

Transcriptions of instrumental music for keyboard were not uncommon. Several composers transcribed dances from operas by Lully for harpsichord; Jean-Henry d'Anglebert was the pioneer in this field. However, transcriptions for organ were rather rare, and Dandrieu seems to have been the first to introduce this secular element into music that was intended for liturgical use. They are part of a general development during the first half of the 18th century, which one could call the 'secularization' of organ music.

It was a splendid idea to bring the originals and the transcriptions together on one disc. This allows for a direct comparison. It would have been useful if the track-list had indicated which movements are transcribed in the Offertoires. That is left to the listener to find out. That is not the only issue regarding the production. The programme includes one movement from the Op. 2 set of trio sonatas, transcribed as a Duo sur la Trompète, but also a movement from a Sonata Op. 3. However, the work-list in New Grove does not mention any sonatas with this opus number. So where does this piece come from? The director of the Ensemble Il Caravaggio, Camille Delaforge, states in the booklet that "[the] fifth trio sonata uses two viola [sic] da gamba to replace the two violins, following the example of Dandrieu who transcribed his trio sonatas in his offertories for solo organ". However, this sonata is played here on two violins, as are the others. The booklet also does not mention a second gambist, alongside Ronald Martin Alonso. Was this an initial idea that has been dropped later? A real gaffe is the inclusion of a biography of Dandrieu, which has been copied from the previous Dandrieu disc. It says that the present recording focuses on the Magnificats - but that was the subject of the first volume - and that the trio sonatas will be presented in a second recording - that is the present one. It is big shame that this label, which releases so many interesting recordings of high-quality repertoire, often in very good performances, produces such sloppy booklets.

I am happy to say that these performances are among the 'very good', and that concerns both the trio sonatas and the organ works. The ensemble has caught the Italian style of these sonatas very well, both in their realisation of the harmonies and in the dynamic differentation. In particular the pathos of the slow movements comes off very well. I don't quite understand, though, why the third movement of the Sonata No. 5 is played as an organ solo on the small basso continuo instrument. I was impressed by the recording of the Magnificats, and here Jean-Baptiste Robin shows to be an excellent interpreter once again. He plays the Offertoires with panache. His articulation is very clear, and the rhythmic pulse is perfectly realised. Sometimes the organ pieces follow the trio sonatas almost attacca; I don't see the need for that and because of that one can hear the sound of the ensemble dying out at the start of the organ track, which is rather unfortunate.

The trio sonatas Op. 1 have been recorded a few years ago by Le Consort, the ensemble of the French keyboard player Justin Taylor (which I have not heard). It is the combination of these sonatas with the organ arrangements that makes this recording an interesting addition to the catalogue. That, and the quality of the music and the performances, guarantee for a compelling experience.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Jean-Baptiste Robin
Ensemble Il Caravaggio

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