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"La Chasse Royale - Keyboard Manuscript of Antoine Selosse"

Terence Charlston, harpsichorda, clavichordb, organc

rec: June 14, 2009, Aldgate, St Botolph'sc; Sept 3 - 4, 2009, Weston, Hitchin, Holy Trinity Churchab
Deux-Elles - DXL1143 (© 2010) (63'07")

anon: Allemande in c minor 'fitt for the manicorde'b; Allemande in c minor 'fitt for the manicorde'b; Allemande in Fa; Allemande and Variation in Fa; Allemande and Variation in g minora; Bergamasca in Gc; Chaconne in Ca; Chaconne in Fc; Ciaccona in Cc; Courante and Variation in g minora; Fuga Ite missa est in Dc; Suite in Ca; Suite in Dc; Suite in Fa; The Hunting Lesson in Gc; Toccata in g minorc; Toccata for the Cornet and Echos in Cc; Toccata for the Vox Humana in Cc; Variations on La Folia in d minora; anon & John ROBERTS? (fl 1650-1670): Suite in Da; John BULL (1562?-1628): The King's Hunt in Ga; John ROBERTS?: Suite in Ga

The title of this disc, "La Chasse Royale", is the French translation of "The King's Hunt", one of John Bull's most famous keyboard pieces. I assume it was chosen because this piece is included in the manuscript which is the subject of this recording. That it has been translated into French has a specific reason as well: the manuscript was once owned by a certain Antoine Selosse, who seems to have lived in England in the second half of the 17th century, but apparently was of Flemish origin and whose name indicates that he was French-speaking.

The present owner of the manuscript, Dr. Peter Leech, describes in detail his research to identify this person and also the next owners of this collection of keyboard pieces. His notes in the booklet read like a kind of detective story, with an open end as not all questions can be answered. There seems to be little reason to doubt that the first owner was a Catholic. In the manuscript he uses a pseudonym (Padre Antonio Mason), which was common among Catholic priests in Britain. Dr. Leech was able to find a person with the name of Antonius Selossius or Antoine Selosse, who was a professor of music at the English College of Saint Omer from 1659 until his death in 1687. He was born in 1621 at Tourcoing in Flanders. "He entered the novitiate of the English Jesuit Province at Watten, near St Omers, in 1658 and was one of several members of the Selosse family who gravitated towards the Jesuit order from the late sixteenth century until the early 1700s." Moreover, an Antoine Selosse has been organist in Liège from 1651 until 1657, and was probably the same person as the Selosse after whom the manuscript is named.

If this Selosse is indeed identical with the Flemish organist this could explain the inclusion of keyboard pieces which are French, German or Italian in style. Some of the compositions are also clearly intended for the organ, in particular those with a liturgical character. The assumption that the first owner was indeed a Catholic is supported not only by his use of a nickname. There is also the fact that the third piece on the second disc is a fugue on the 'Ite missa est' from the mass and that the latter part of the title has been made illegible, probably to conceal its origins. Otherwise, most pieces in the manuscript lack titles. The titles in the track-list are given by Terence Charlston, who in his notes indicates which titles are original. The first item of the second disc only bears the title 'Vox Humana' which indicates that it is specifically intended for the organ. Most dances are performed here as part of a suite; some of them have a title like 'courante and variation' (Suite in C) or 'allemande' (Suite in G). On the basis of stylistic considerations the latter suite and the allemande from the Suite in D are attributed to John Roberts, an English keyboard player and composer.

Most compositions in the manuscript are anonymous; only John Bull as the composer of The King's Hunt is known with certainty. It is possible that some pieces may have been written by Antoine Selosse himself, in particular the liturgical works. These are clearly intended for the organ, but otherwise the choice of the keyboard is left to the performer. That will always be a matter of debate. The Hunting Lesson is played here at the organ, and as well as it sounds I would have preferred a performance at the harpsichord. There are strong reminiscences of Bull's piece, and I don't think anyone would consider playing this at the organ. The Ciaccona in C would probably be better played at the harpsichord as well. The two Allemandes in c minor at the second disc are interesting. They also appear in a manuscript owned by Christopher Hogwood, and there they are entitled "fitt for the manicorde". This was the term used for the clavichord, and it is on this instrument that Terence Charlston has chosen to perform these two pieces. This is especially interesting as usually very few - if any - English keyboard music of the late 17th century is performed on the clavichord. It would have been nice if some other items would also have been played on this instrument.

As English keyboard music of the Restoration period receives little attention by the record industry this production is an important addition to the repertoire. The music is of very good quality, and the continental origin of some pieces make this collection all the more remarkable. It greatly adds to our knowledge of the repertoire played in England in the second half of the 17th century. Terence Charlston is the ideal interpreter. He has a special interest in unknown compositions as his recordings of music by Albertus Bryne and Carlo Ignazio Monza show. Like on those discs Charlston provides engaging and technically impeccable performances, and his notes on interpretation are illuminating. The recording is immaculate and the booklet exemplary.

Charlston plays three beautiful instruments. The harpsichord is the copy of a double-manual instrument by Ruckers of 1624, the clavichord the copy of a double-fretted instrument after Donat which dates from around 1700 and is in the Leipzig Museum of Musical Instruments. The organ is one of the oldest instruments in England and was originally built around 1702. So all these instruments are built close to the time the manuscript was put together. They are tuned in a kind of meantone temperament which allows for some spicy harmonies. You are well advised to turn the volume of your CD player or headphones down in the tracks played at the clavichord. Only this way you will be able to enjoy the instrument's natural soft and delicate sound.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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