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"Musique de la Grande Écurie & des Gardes Suisses"

ensemble arcimboldo (Thilo Hirsch); Trumpet ensemble of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Jean-François Madeuf)a

rec: Nov 1 - 5, 2009, Basle, Volkshaus
Migros - MGB CD 6267 (© 2010) (66'34")
Liner-notes: E/D/F

François DE CHANCY (c1600-1656), arr Anne Danican PHILIDOR (c1647-1730): Allemande de Mr. Chansy [3]; Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795): Les amusemens du Parnasse (Ariette du Déserteur; Marche des Gardes Suisses; Menuet sur le Chant de la Marche Suisse); Louis COUPERIN (c1626-1661): Fantaisie sur le Jeu des Haubois; ? DE GRIGNIS (fl c1660), arr André Danican PHILIDOR: Gavotte ensuitte [3]; Petite Bransle [3]; Jean-Pierre FREILLON-PONCEIN (fl 1700-1708): Bruits de Guerre [4]; L'embarras de Paris [4]; Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687), arr André Danican PHILIDOR: Alcidiane (LWV 9) (L'ataque du Fort; La Retrette; Le Combat); Intermèdes de Xerxes (LWV 12) (Air pour les Matelots jouans des Trompettes marines; Air pour des Esclaves et Singes dansans); Marche & Air du régiments du Roy [6]; Psyché (LWV 56) (Prélude de Trompettes en écho; 1er Air de Trompettes; 2e Air de Trompettes); Thésée (LWV 51) (Descente de Mars); ? MARGUERY (fl c1754): L'Ordre [8]; La Généralle [8]; Michel Pignolet DE MONTÉCLAIR (1667 - 1737): Cinquième Concert 'La guerre' (Rondeau; Mellange des fifres, des Tambours, et des Musettes; Sommeil; Le Réveil matin) [7]; André Danican PHILIDOR: Chaconne Dauphinea [2]; L'assamblée, L'air des fifres [6]; L'ordonanse pour le fifre [6]; La Beaupréa [2]; La Grande Maisona [2]; La Lamarchea [2]; Le Mariage de la Grosse Cathos (Charivary); Le Menuet difficilea [1]; Le reposoir de la Feste-Dieu [2]; Marche a 2 timballesa [6]; Mascarade du Roy de la Chine (Marche du Roy de la Chine; Entrée de la Pagode); Jacques Danican PHILIDOR (1657-1708), arr André Danican PHILIDOR: Marche de timballes faite par philidor Cadet [6]; Pierre Danican PHILIDOR (1681-1731), arr André Danican PHILIDOR: Marche Suisse; Jean-Baptiste PRIN (1669-1743): La Chasse - La veüe [5]; La Chasse du Roy, trio en eco [5]; Milord Biron, contredanse [5]; Premier Concert de Trompette; Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU (1712-1778): Air Suisse apellé le Ranz des Vaches [9]

Sources: André Danican Philidor, [1] Pièces de Trompettes ..., c1680; André Danican Philidor, [2] Pièces de Trompettes et Timballes, 1685; André Danican Philidor, [3] Recüeil de Plusieurs vieux Airs, 1690; [4] Jean-Pierre Freillon-Poncein, La veritable maniere d'apprendre a jouer en perfection du haut-bois, de la flute et du flageolet, avec les principes de la musique pour la voix et pour toutes sortes d'instrumens, 1700; [5] Jean-Baptiste Prin, Livre de la musique du Roy, 1702; [6] André Danican Philidor, Partition de plusieurs marches et batteries de Tambour, 1705; [7] Michel Pignolet de Montéclair, Concerts pour la flûte traversière et autres instruments, 1724; [8] Marguery, Instruction des Tambours, 1754; [9] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dictionnaire de Musique, 1768

[ensemble arcimboldo] Sarah van Cornewal, Boaz Berney, Sylvain Sartre, Richard Robinson, fifres; Danny Wehrmüller, Walter Büchler, Dominic Labhardt, Patric Imhof, tambours; Johanne Maitre, Katharina Andres, Elsa Frank, Vincent Robin, Jeremy Papasergio, hautbois, cromornes; Thilo Hirsch, Eberhard Maldfeld, Federico Abraham, trompettes marines; Cosimo Stawiarski, Diego Rivera, Tanja Bednjagina, Eva Neunhäuserer, Daniel Rosin, violin; Henry Moderlak, Mike Diprose, trumpet, trompette de chasse; Giuseppe Frau, Christina Hess, trumpet; Philip Tarr, Markus Schmid, percussion
[Trumpet ensemble of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis] Henry Moderlak, Mike Diprose, Giuseppe Frau, Christina Hess, Christoph Draeger, Balthasar Streiff, Emile Meuffels, Jean-François Madeuf, trumpet; Philip Tarr, timbales

Wind instruments have always played an important role at royal and aristocratic courts. Some of them were almost exclusively played there and not a few of them were specifically connected with the army. An example is the fife, which - mostly together with drums - are still part of military bands. This disc is the result of a research project of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis which lasted two years. Its purpose was to find out especially which instruments were used in the Grande Écurie at Versailles and the music which was part of its repertoire.

The Grande Écurie originally comprised four departments: Trompettes; Joüeurs de Violon, Hautbois, Saqueboutes, Cornets; Hautbois, Musettes de Poitou and Joüeurs de Fifres et Tambours. In 1651 a fifth ensemble was added by Louis XIV, the Cromornes & Trompettes marines. The addition can be explained by the fact that these were recently invented instruments. The cromorne cannot be identified with the crumhorn, which was in use in the renaissance. The range of parts which have been preserved and are described as scored for cromorne suggest that it was a kind of bassoon. Documents from various courts of the time refer to "new cromornes" which can serve as confirmation that these instrument have nothing to do with the crumhorn.

Especially noteworthy is the trompette marine, in English trumpet marine. It is defined in New Grove as a " bowed monochord equipped with a vibrating bridge in common use from the 15th century until the mid-18th". It was used as a kind of imitation of the trumpet. The meaning of the adjective "marine" is not known. It was a frequently used instrument in many countries across Europe from about 1650 to 1725.

The fife was an established part of the Grande Écurie since the early 16th century. It is a small cylindrical transverse flute, made from a single piece of wood and with six fingerholes. Fifes were mostly used together with drums, and associated with infantry. During the ancien régime they were played during ceremonies and accompanied the King on his travels. At the end of the 17th century they were largely replaced by oboes. Only the Swiss guards still used them. These Cent Suisses had acted as the King's bodyguards since 1497. Fifes were also played by the Gardes Suisses which Louis XIII had added to the Gardes du Roy; they had the duty to protect the King's residences.

The repertoire which was played by the instruments of the Grande Écurie consists mostly of small pieces, which are often arrangements, for instance of instrumental pieces from Lully's operas. The programme of this disc is divided into a number of sections with music for a specific ensemble from the Grande Écurie. The pieces selected are performed here in the form of suites. In the booklet the function of the music is explained at length.

Apart from extracts from operas by Lully we also find here pieces specifically written for the various ensembles, especially by members of the Philidor family, a dynasty of wind instrument players. An important role was played by Anne Danican, known as l'aîné as he was the librarian of the King and responsible for a number of collections of music from which pieces of this programme have been taken. It is not always clear who the composer is; it is quite possible he has written or at least arranged a number of pieces himself.

Noteworthy are the pieces by Jean-Baptiste Prin, who was a composer and dancing master, but in the framework of this disc especially notable for being a vituoso at the trumpet marine. He gave a concert in 1702 in the Trianon of the part of Versailles. Whether he had any connections to the Grande Écurie is not known, and from that perspective his music performed here doesn't fit in the programme. However, it gives a good idea of the character of the instrument.

This disc is an unqualified success. It is highly interesting from a historical point of view and gives a very good impression of a part of musical life in and around Versailles which is hardly known and doesn't easily fit in the programmes which are mostly performed in public concerts. We also get acquainted with various little-known instruments. Moreover, this disc is very entertaining. Just listening without giving much attention to the historical background is a joyful experience in itself.

One particularly noteworthy part of these generally excellent performances is the playing of the trumpet ensemble of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Its director, Jean-François Madeuf, specializes in playing historical trumpets without any intonational aids. The whole ensemble plays the pieces this way, and it results in a less than perfect intonation. Even so, Madeuf's pursuit is admirable and very important in regard to historical performance practice.

From any angle this is a very recommendable disc.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Schola Cantorum Basiliensis

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