musica Dei donum
"The Nightingale and the Butterfly"
Pamela Thorby, recordera;
Elizabeth Kenny, archluteb, theorboc, guitard
rec: March 22 - 24, 2009, York, The National Centre for Early Music
Linn Records - CKD 341 (© 2010) (76'41")
Louis DE CAIX D'HERVELOIS (1680-1759):
Suite No 2 in Dab ;
François COUPERIN (1668-1733):
14e Ordre in D/d minor: Le Rossignol-en-amourad ;
Le Rossignol Vainqueurad ;
Charles DIEUPART (c1667-c1740):
Suite No 1 in A 'pour une flûte de voix'ac ;
Suite No 6 in f minor 'pour une flûte du quatre'ab ;
Anne-Danican PHILIDOR (1681-1728):
Sonata in d minorac ;
Robert DE VISÉE (c1650-1725):
Suite in d minorc
 Dieupart, Six suittes, 1702;
 Anne-Danican Philidor, Premier livre de pièces, 1712;
 François Couperin, Troisième livre de pièces de clavecin, 1722;
 Louis de Caix d'Hervelois, Deuxième recueil de pièces pour la flûte traversière, 1731)
The nightingale and the butterfly are just two of the animals which turn up regularly in baroque compositions. The nightingale was especially popular because of the beauty of its singing. Characteristic of the butterfly is its velocity, graceful but also unpredictable. No wonder it is sometimes used as a symbol for a fickle lover. Both are represented in this programme of music for recorder and basso continuo. That is to say: the music on this disc can be played in this scoring. But some pieces can be played at several treble instruments, the choice of which is left to the performer. And there are also pieces for which the composer has indicated the transverse flute as the first choice. This doesn't exclude a performance on the recorder, but sometimes the composer's first choice is also the best.
That is especially the case with the two extracts from the 14e Ordre of pieces for harpsichord by François Couperin. The composer suggests the upper part to be played on the transverse flute. Thanks to its wider dynamic range this instrument seems better suited to express the subtlety of the nightingale's singing than the recorder with its quite penetrating sound. It was not such a good decision to split Le Rossignol-en-amour and its double into two tracks and play them at different moments in the programme as they clearly belong together and are placed next to each other by the composer.
The programme furnishes a nice survey of French music of the early 18th century. Louis de Caix d'Hervelois is one of the lesser-known masters. He was a player of the viola da gamba and was probably a pupil of Marin Marais. Two of his collections of music are scored for transverse flute and basso continuo. The 2e Suite in G comes from the second collection, which was printed in 1731. At this time character pieces were very popular, and this suite contains three of them. Here we meet the butterfly: the fourth movement is called 'Papillon', and it is not surprising that the tempo indication is 'vite'. The next movement, 'La Lionnoise', could refer to Lyon, where members of the Caix family were born, to whom Louis probably was related. 'La Fanatique' is appropriately played here with strong accents, and mostly forte.
Anne-Danican Philidor was a member of the Philidor dynasty of musicians and composers. His main works are compositions for the stage. Only two books with pieces for a treble instrument and basso continuo are known. The choice of instrument is left to the performer, but in the Sonata in d minor the recorder is specified. Notable is that two of the five movements are fugues, and the fourth movement is called "les notes égales et détachez". This means that notes inégales which interpreters were often expected to play, are out of order here, and that the notes should be played staccato.
Charles Dieupart was a composer who relatively early in his career settled in London. He is mainly known for his Six suittes de clavecin which he published in Amsterdam in 1701. The next year the same suites were printed in an edition for a treble instrument and basso continuo. For the treble part violin or recorder were suggested. The mention of the recorder comes as no surprise: they were intended for the English market where the recorder still enjoyed great popularity, in particular among amateurs. Johann Sebastian Bach copied two of the suites - those recorded here. For the Suite No 1 the flûte de voix is required: the voice flute or recorder in D. The Suite No 6 asks for the flûte de quatre: the fourth flute or soprano recorder in B flat.
The music with recorder is interspersed with solo pieces for theorbo by Robert de Visée. He was a versatile performer, who played the theorbo, the guitar and the viola da gamba. He is mainly known as the guitar teacher of Louis XIV. For this instrument he published two collections, as well as one book with pieces for the theorbo. The Suite in d minor and the Passacaille which Elizabeth Kenny plays come from the manuscript Vaudry de Saizenay, which dates from the end of the 17th century. The suite contains just one character piece, called 'Ouverture de la Grotte de Versailles'. The 'grotte' (cave) is illustrated by strong notes at the theorbo's lower range.
The programme on this disc has been well put together, and the result is an interesting and very entertaining recital. Pamela Thorby plays very well, with great rhythmic vibrancy and an eloquent expression of the character pieces. Elizabeth Kenny provides fine support on the various plucked instruments, and delivers excellent performances of the solo pieces by De Visée. The balance between the recorder and the theorbo could have been better. The recorder produces a quite penetrating sound, and as a result the theorbo sounds a shade too much in the background.
Johan van Veen (© 2010)