musica Dei donum
"Recueil des Pieces pour les Autres Instrumens - French Chamber Music for Recorders"
Eva Legênea, Astrid Anderssonb, recorder;
Anne Legêne, viola da gambac;
Ricarda Hornych, theorbod;
Corey Jamason, harpsichorde
rec: June 19 & 22 - 23, 2015, Stuttgart-Mönchfeld, Ev. Kirche; August 25, 2016, San Francisco, Conservatory of Music (soloe)
Cornetto - COR10048 (© 2016) (65'54")
Cover & track-list
Michel BLAVET (1700-1768):
Gavotte de Corelliad ;
La Chasse de Zaïdeabd ;
Pourquoi doux Rossignolsabd ;
Rondeau dans Zaïdeabd ;
François COUPERIN (1668-1733):
6e Ordre in B flat (Les Bergeries)e ;
14e Ordre in D/d minor (La Julliet)abd ;
15e Order in A/a minor (Muséte de Taverni)ae ;
7e Préludee ;
Jacques-Martin HOTTETERRE le Romain (1674-1763):
Première Suitte de Pièces à deux Dessusab;
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728):
Suite for 2 instruments and bc ;
Clair-Nicolas ROGET (ROGER) (fl 1739):
Sonata IIab 
 Marin Marais, Pièces en trio pour les flûtes, violons, et dessus de viole, 1692;
François Couperin,  L'art de toucher le clavecin, 1716;
 Second livre de pieces de clavecin, 1716/17;
 Troisiéme livre de piéces de clavecin, 1722;
 Clair-Nicolas Roget, VI Sonates pour les deux flûtes traversières sans basse ... ou autres instrumens, 1739;
 Michel Blavet, Recueil de Pièces avec des doubles et variations, 1744
It is probably safe to say that in the first half of the 18th century more music was published than ever before. Especially chamber music was in great demand as an increasing number of people from the higher echelons of society liked to play music with family and friends in their homes. The transverse flute was the most popular instrument, which in the course of time overshadowed the recorder. The latter's heyday was the 17th century and after the turn of the century not that many composers used it extensively. Ironically Johann Sebastian Bach, often considered a rather 'conservative' composer, never wrote a single solo piece for the recorder, whereas his friend and colleague Telemann, probably the most 'progressive' composer of his generation, composed lots of music for the 'old-fashioned' recorder.
In France the two instruments coexisted for most of the 18th century. Eva Legêne, in the liner-notes to her recording, mentions an inventory drawn up at the death of the woodwind instrument maker Prudent Thieriot in 1786 which included 41 recorders. This suggests that the recorder was still played at that time. The ongoing popularity of the instrument explains why so many editions of chamber music mention the recorder as one of the alternatives, not so much specifically to the transverse flute, but more generally as one of the options for sonatas and suites for one or more treble instruments. Often the recorder can even be used when it is not especially mentioned.
It is notable that Legêne and her colleagues open their programme with pieces by Michel Blavet. He was one of the main exponents of the transverse flute and a key figure in French music life. When Telemann visited Paris he played his 'Paris quartets' with some of France's most famous musicians, including Blavet playing the flute part. In 1744 the latter published a collection of arrangements of various pieces, including popular songs, for two treble instruments. The title page mentions "flutes travers(ieres), violons, pardessus de viole etc". The "etc" indicates that the performers can basically choose every possible instrument, and because of that there is no objection against playing them on recorders. The interpreters on their part have arranged some of these pieces as well. In the case of the Gavotte de Corelli - its inclusion attests to the growing influence of the Italian style in France - they have replaced Blavet's second flute part with the original basso continuo by Corelli. I find that decision regrettable as it would be much more interesting to hear how Blavet had turned that into a flute part. In the case of the pastoral song Pourquoy doux Rossignols they have left the two flute parts intact, but added a bass part written by Jean-Baptiste Drouard de Boesset (1662-1725). Was he the composer of the song? The liner-notes don't tell.
Jacques-Martin Hotteterre 'le Romain' was the most famous member of a dynasty of makers of woodwind instruments and composers. His nickname refers to a stay in Rome, which left its mark in his oeuvre. The 1ere Suitte was published separately as his op. 4 in 1712. Here the title-page explicitly mentions the recorder as an alternative to the transverse flute. François Couperin left chamber music and four collections of harpsichord pieces. There is no watershed between them: his instrumental music could be played on the harpsichord and at least some of the harpsichord pieces with melody instruments. Here we get a mixture of scorings.
Clair-Nicolas Roget (or Roger) is a largely unknown composer; he has no entry in New Grove. Nothing is known about him; he published two collections of music for flute. The first is the set of six sonatas for two transverse flutes without a bass of 1739, from which the Sonata II is taken. It comprises four movements in the tradition of Corelli: andante, allegro, gracioso, allegro. The programme ends with pieces taken from Marin Marais's only collection of instrumental works not intended for viola da gamba. In 1692 he published Pièces en trio pour les flûtes, violon, et dessus de viole. At this time the word flûte probably referred to the recorder in the first place.
The programme has been put together in such a way that there is quite some variety. Pieces for one or two flutes without a bass are alternated with items with a basso continuo part, mostly realised by the theorbo alone; only in the pieces by Marais, which close the disc, the recorders are supported by viola da gamba and harpsichord. The latter plays some of Couperin's pieces as solos. All artists deliver fine performances. Eva Legêne and Astrid Andersson produce a beautiful tone. They use copies of various recorders from the 18th century; it is nice that the booklet gives some details about these instruments.
This disc is a valuable addition to the collection of any recorder aficionado.
Johan van Veen (© 2017)