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Carolus HACQUART (c1640 - c1701): "Cantiones & Sonate"

CÚline Scheen, sopranoa; Stephan Van Dyck, tenorb; Dirk Snellings, bassc
Ensemble Clematis
Dir: Leonardo Garcia Alarc˛n

rec: February 16 - 18, 2005, Poppel (B), Nieuwkerk
Musica Ficta - MF8006 (ę 2006) (62'01")

Domine quae est fiducia tuaabcfgj [1]; Miser esabfghj [1]; Nunc loquar, Domineabdefghj [1]; Sonata I a 3defhij [2]; Sonata V a 3defhj [2]; Sonata VI a 3defghij [2]; Sonata VIII a 4efghj [2]; Sonata IX a 4efghij [2]

Aline Hopchet, Bernard Mouton, recorderd; StÚphanie de Failly, Tami Troman, violine; Andrea De Carlo, viola da gambaf; Benoţt Vanden Bemden, violoneg; Jan Van Outryve, theorbeh; Leonardo Garcia Alarc˛n, harpsichordi, organj

(Sources: [1] Cantiones Sacrae 2,3,4,5,6,7, tam vocum quam instrumentorum, op. 1, 1674; [2] Harmonia Parnassia Sonatarum trium, et 4 Instrumentorum, op. 2, 1686)

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 then it has 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. I therefore was looking forward to it, hoping it would do Hacquart justice, and hopefully even be the start of a Hacquart renaissance. We have to wait and see if the latter happens, but - anticipating on my conclusions - these interpretations are generally rather disappointing and sometimes even outright annoying.

It seems Hacquart was born around 1640 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, later to Amsterdam, where he published a collection of sacred works in 1674 under the title Cantiones Sacrae, opus 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. 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: Harmonia Parnassia, opus 2 and Chelys, opus 3. There is no trace of Hacquart from 1689 on, but there is circumstantial evidence that he died in 1701 or 1702.

This disc presents pieces from the first two collections of music Hacquart published. The Concerti Ecclesiastici contain 10 sacred concertos in 2 to 7 parts, for voices and instruments. Miser es and Domine quae est fiducia tua are for two and three voices respectively with bc, whereas Nunc loquar, Domine, is for two voices, two instruments and bc. In the latter piece the instruments are predominantly used in the ritornelli. For this collection Hacquart used texts from the Bible (the Vulgata, the Latin translation of the Bible) and from the Imitatio Christi by Thomas Ó Kempis. In his programme notes the late Pieter Andriessen (formerly head of Belgian classical radio) asks why Hacquart used such texts in a country where Calvinism was dominating. He refers to the fact that the Reformed Church was never a state church in the Low Countries, that Latin was "a mean for the bourgeoisie to distinguish themselves from the common people", and that the Imitatio Christi was read by Catholics and Protestants alike, both in Latin and the vernacular. These motets had not been written for liturgical use but rather to be performed at home and in social gatherings, just like the polyphonic psalm settings by Sweelink.

The collection Harmonia Parnassia consists of 10 sonatas in 3 and 4 parts: six for two violins and bc, the remaining four scored for a various combination of string instruments: one for violin, viola, viola da gamba and bc, two for two violins, viola, viola da gamba and bc, and one for three violins, viola, viola da gamba and bc. The viola da gamba not only plays the bass - reinforcing the left hand of the keyboard player - but also gets an independent role to play. The sonatas consist of a number of short, often contrasting sections. They show Italian and English influences, and there are also traces of folk music.

The title of the collection doesn't specify that these sonatas are specifically written for string instruments. As so often the possibility to use other instruments is left to the performers. And considering the popularity of the recorder in the Netherlands it is certainly not inconceivable to play these sonatas on recorders. But what is happening here is very strange. All sonatas are basically played on violins, but in some sections they are replaced by recorders. It is probably a way of underlining the contrasts between the various sections, but that is not only superfluous, but damaging as the unity of the sonatas is completely destroyed. And in some sections violins and recorders play together - I have never met the practice playing colla parte in chamber music, and I would like to see any historical evidence for it. The actual result on this disc doesn't convince me - on the contrary. In particular the last section of the last item on this disc, the Sonata VI is simply ugly. Moreover the contrast between piano and forte in the last section of Sonata VIII isn't very well realised.
The less than brilliant quality of the playing in general and the messing around with the instrumentation - not only in the sonatas but also in the sacred concerto Non loquar, Domine - does make me to assess this recording rather negatively. It is a great shame this first recording devoted to the work of Carolus Hacquart doesn't do him real justice.

Johan van Veen (ę 2007)

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