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Elisabeth JACQUET DE LA GUERRE (1665 - 1729): "Sonates pour violon, viole obligée & basse-continue"

La Rêveuse

rec: Sept 2009, Bra-sur-Lienne (B), Église
Mirare - MIR 105 (© 2010) (66'23")

François COUPERIN (1668-1733), arr Robert DE VISÉE (c1655?-1732/33): Les Sylvainsa; Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: Sonata I in d minor [1]; Sonata III in F [1]; Sonata IV in G [1]; Suonata 1ma in a minor; Suonata 2da in a minor; Jacques MOREL (fl c1700-1749): Le Foletb [2]; Préludeb [2]

(Sources: [1] Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, 6 Sonates, 1707; [2] Jacques Morel, 1er Livre de Pièces de Viole, c1710)

Stéphan Dudermel, violin; Florence Bolton, viola da gamba (solo in b); Benjamin Perrot, theorbo (solo in a), guitar; Bertrand Cuiller, harpsichord, organ; Emmanuel Mandrin, organ

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre is one of the most remarkable figures in French music history. Born as Elisabeth Jacquet in a family of musicians and instrument makers she was educated as a harpsichord player and a singer, and in these capacities she performed at the court for Louis XIV at a very young age. The king was so impressed that from then on she enjoyed his protection, which she reciprocated by dedicating almost all her compositions to him.

But what is even more remarkable is the fact that she presented herself as a composer, not only of the kind of music she has become famous for - harpsichord pieces and chamber music -, but also of music for the theatre. In about 1691 she composed a ballet, which has been lost. Céphale et Procris, a tragédie lyrique, was first performed in 1694, but was rather negatively received. It was the last dramatic music she has written, and from now on she concentrated on writing sonatas.

It is quite possible that without that negative reception of her music for the theatre she would not have become one of the first composers in France to write sonatas, and to incorporate Italian elements into her music. The sonatas which La Rêveuse has recorded here show the mixture of French and Italian elements. French elements are the dance movements in some sonatas, and the obbligato part for the viola da gamba. It doesn't have an independent part all the time, as sometimes it just follows the basso continuo, but in several sonatas it comes to the fore in a solo role, like in the Sonata I in d minor in which it plays a récit, and the Sonata IV in G.

The Italian elements are the quite dramatic character of many movements and the fugal sections in many fast movements. In the Suonata 2da in a minor there is even some double stopping, which is very rare in French music, and in particular as early as Jacquet de la Guerre's sonatas were written. The sarabande of that same sonata has a most beautiful subject, showing the lyrical qualities of Jacquet de la Guerre's music.

There is some chromaticism in the bass of the Sonata I in d minor. Here and also in the Sonata IV in G we find syncopations. In the Suonata I in a minor there is a passage in which the violin and viola da gamba play a passage over a pedal point. This description suffices to show the variety of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre's sonatas. Her oeuvre isn't large, but of high quality.

One can only be grateful that La Rêveuse has chosen these five beautiful sonatas from her output, and has recorded them in such excellent interpretations. The dramatic elements are fully explored, and the rhythmic pulse is well exposed. The slow movements are performed with much expression. The only criticism I can think of is that in some movements the basso continuo is played with harpsichord and organ together, which seems a bit odd, especially in chamber music.

In addition to the sonatas by Jacquet de la Guerre we hear two pieces for viola da gamba and bc by Jacques Morel, who was a pupil of Marin Marais, and a harpsichord piece by François Couperin, arranged for the theorbo by Robert de Visée, who was Louis XIV's guitar teacher. These are given fine performances by Florence Bolton and Benjamin Perrot respectively. They round off a very nice disc which is not only historically interesting but also musically captivating.

The programme is immaculately recorded and the booklet contains extensive programme notes in French, English and German.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

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