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Carolus HACQUART (1640 - 1701): "Le maistre de musique"

François Fernandeza, Luis Ottavio Santosb, violin; Philippe Pierlotc, Kaori Uemurad, Rainer Zipperlinge, viola da gamba; Eduardo Egüez, theorbof; Laurent Stewart, harpsichord, organg

rec: May 18 - 21, 2005, Bra sur Lienne (B)
Flora - 0705 (© 2015) (64'09")
Liner-notes: E/F/N
Cover & track-list

Carolus HACQUART: Sonata I a 3 in e minor, op. 2,1abcg [1]; Sonata V a 3 in c minor, op. 2,5abcfg [1]; Sonata VI a 3 in d minor, op. 2,6abcfg [1]; Sonata VII a 3, op. 2,7acefg [1]; Sonata VIII a 4 in e minor, op. 2,8abcefg [1]; Suite VIII in e minor, op. 3,8 (sarabande)cg [2]; Suite X in a minor, op. 3,10 (sarabande)cf [2]; Suite XII in C, op. 3,12 (sarabande)c [2]; Philippus VAN WICHEL (1610-c1675): Sonata Iabcg [3]; Sonata VIII a 4acdefg [3]

Sources: Carolus Hacquart, [1] Harmonia parnassia, op. 2, 1686; [2] Chelys, op. 3, 1686; [3] Philippus Van Wichel, his Fasciculus dulcedinis, 1678

The Dutch don't treat their composers very well. Many years ago Dutch and Belgian radio started a project about Carolus Hacquart, but although a number of his works were recorded, very few of them ever made it to disc, and since things have remained quiet around this composer. There is no reason to ignore him, as his music is of very good quality, as the present disc proves.

It seems Hacquart was born around 1643 in Brughes and received his first musical education as a choirboy there and later in Ghent. He studied viola da gamba and organ and moved to the United Dutch Provinces, first to Rotterdam, where he worked as a freelance musician and music teacher. One of his pupils was the local burgomaster Willem van Hogendorp to whom he dedicated his sonatas op. 2. In 1674 he moved to Amsterdam, where that same year he published a collection of sacred works under the title Cantiones Sacrae as his op. 1, dedicated to the stadholder Willem III. In 1678 the poet Dirk Buysero commissioned Hacquart to write the music for his pastoral play De triomfeerende min, celebrating the Peace of Nijmegen (recorded by Camerata Trajectina). The work was dedicated to Constantijn Huygens, Willem III's chief counsellor, who became Hacquart's patron. In 1679 Hacquart moved to The Hague, the residence of the stadholder and his family. He acted as organist and choirmaster at a hidden Catholic church, and as music teacher. He published two other collections of music: the above-mentioned op. 2, Harmonia Parnassia, and Chelys, a collection of pieces for viola da gamba, as his op. 3. There is no trace of Hacquart from 1689 onwards, but there is circumstantial evidence that he died in 1701 or 1702.

Harmonia Parnassia, which is the main subject of the present disc, includes ten sonatas. Six have the scoring of the trio sonata: two violins and bc. One sonata is for violin, viola, viola da gamba and bc, two for two violins, viola, bass viol and bc, and one for three violins, bass viol and bc. The bass viol has a double role: it reinforces the left hand of the keyboard - the bass notes as written down by the composer - but also has some independence. In this recording the viola parts are performed on the viola da gamba. These sonatas are largely Italian in character and have the texture of 17th-century sonatas before Corelli laid down the basic structure of the trio sonata. They are divided into a number of movements which contrast in character and tempo; some movements comprise a number of sections, again in contrasting tempi. Two of the movements of Sonata VI, for instance, are a sequence of four sections: adagio, presto, adagio, presto. The late Pieter Andriessen, a Hacquart expert, discovered that the composer in some sonatas referred to folk songs of his time. The inclusion of a movement with the title canzona can be seen as the influence of English music. One of the features of Hacquart's sonatas is the frequent contrast between forte and piano. In several movements a couple of notes are first played forte and then repeated piano. That is the case, for instance, in the closing allegro from the Sonata VIII.

Also included in the programme are three sarabandes from op. 3; its name Chelys is the Greek word for 'lyre' and in the 17th century referred to string instruments in general and the viola da gamba in particular. The pieces are divided over twelve suites according to key and are in a fixed order. Every suite opens with a prelude or fantasia which is followed by four dances: allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue. Andriessen observed that Hacquart borrowed the principle of the variation-suite from German composers: allemande and courante as well as sarabande and gigue are thematically linked. Obviously that aspect is lost when single movements are isolated as is the case here. The ornamented repeats in the sarabandes are borrowed from French harpsichord music. There is some doubt about the basso continuo part. It seems that Hacquart intended these suites to be played by viola da gamba alone and later added a basso continuo part. In this recording the sarabandes from Suite VI and Suite Xare played with basso continuo, the sarabande from Suite XII unaccompanied. That sarabande is played pizzicato from beginning to end. As I don't have access to the scores I can't check whether this is indicated in the score. Guido Balestracci, who recorded six suites (originally released by Symphonia in 2004 and reissued by Pan Classics in 2015), plays only the first section pizzicato.

In his introductory notes to Chelys Hacquart wrote: "Your refined ears will earn pleasure, I hope, in the sweet product of my mind". That should be no problem: not only his music for viola da gamba but also his sonatas are most delightful and it is hard to understand that they receive relatively little attention. It is quite possible that every single sonata and every suite for viola da gamba is available on some disc but there is no single recording of the complete sets, and that is very regrettable. This disc offers the opportunity to get acquainted with Hacquart's output in very fine performances by artists who evidently feel completely at home in this repertoire. There is some refined playing of the violin and the ensemble leaves nothing to be desired. The contrasts within the sonatas or within single movements come out well and the shifts from forte to piano are well realised. Philippe Pierlot is one of the world's best gambists and that results in expressive performances of the sarabandes.

I wonder why, in addition to the sonatas by Hacquart, two pieces by Philippus Van Wichel were recorded. Without them there would have been space to record one or even two further sonatas by Hacquart which would have been preferable. Van Wichel is another little-known composer from the Netherlands - the Spanish Netherlands, this time - who deserves more attention. He has no entry in New Grove; the booklet tells us that he was an instrumentalist at the court in Brussels. In 1678 he published his Fasciculus dulcedinis from which the two sonatas played here are taken. They also show the influence of the Italian style and as they are close to Hacquart's sonatas they fit well into the programme.

The inclusion of a booklet is most welcome, especially as some Flora discs come without one. It includes useful information about the two composers and their historical and stylistic context. The sarabandes from Hacquart's op. 3 are not specified. Thanks to Balestracci's recording I could figure out from which suites they are taken.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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