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Jacques Martin HOTTETERRE 'le Romain' (1673 - 1763): "La Flûte du Roy - Preludes, Suittes & Sonates en Trio"

Michael Form, recorder; Rebeka Rusó, treble and bass viol; Dolores Costoyas, theorbo; Dirk Börner, harpsichord

rec: Sept 10 - 14, 2002, Polditz, Kirche Alt-Leisnig
Raumklang - RK 2207 (© 2004) (73'25")

Jean Henry D'ANGLEBERT (1635-1691): Suite No 2 in g minor: Passacaille [1]; Jacques Martin HOTTETERRE 'le Romain': De mes Supires de ma langueur [6]; Prélude en D. La, Re, 3ce Majeure [5]; Prélude en G. Re, Sol, 3ce Mineur [5]; Rochers, vous êtes sourds [6]; Sonate en trio No 3 in d minor, op. 3,3 [3]; Sonate en trio No 6 in g minor, op. 3,6 [3]; Suite No 2 in c minor [4]; Suite No 3 in G [2]; Suite No 4 in e minor [2]

(Sources: [1] Jean Henry d'Anglebert, Pièces de Clavecin, 1689; Jacques Martin Hotteterre 'le Romain', [2] Premier Livre de Pièces, 1708/1715; [3] Sonates en trio, op. 3, 1712; [4] Deuxième Livre de Pièces, 1715; [5] L'Art de Préluder, 1719; [6] Airs et Brunettes, 1721

Jacques Martin Hotteterre was a member of a large familiy, which had its roots in Normandy. Since the early 17th century most of the Hotteterres devoted themselves to instrument making. In particular since some of them moved to Paris they had a strong influence on the technical development of wind instruments. They played a crucial role in the transformation of the renaissance instruments into their baroque counterparts.

Most of them were also playing instruments: at least six Hotteterres were playing under Lully's direction in the 1670s. Jacques Martin was also active as a player: he received an important position at the royal court, granting him a high social status. But instead of making wind instruments, he concentrated on composition and on teaching the transverse flute.

As a composer he was one of the first to write sonatas and suites for the transverse flute. One of the most important aspects of Hotteterre's playing and composing was the ornamentation, according to reports of his own performances as well as the second edition of his 1er Livre de Pièces. There is also a strong Italian element in his oeuvre, which is particularly demonstrated by the Sonates en trio opus 3. The catalogue of his private library gives further evidence of his interest in Italian music. This could be the reason he was nicknamed 'the Roman'.

It may surprise that the music of a composer who has devoted most of his time to playing the transverse flute is performed here on the recorder, an instrument whose popularity was waning after 1700. But there is ample justification for this. First, most composers were rather flexible in regard to the choice of instruments in the performance of their compositions. The title pages often refer to several instruments, like the 2e Livre by Hotteterre: 'Deuxième Livre de Pieces pour la Flûte-Traversière et autres Instruments avec la Basse (pieces for the transverse flute and other instruments with basso continuo). And on the title page of the trio sonatas opus 3 the recorder is specifically mentioned: Sonates en Trio pour les Flûtes Traversière, Flûtes à Bec, Violons, Hautbois etc. Secondly, in his treatise Principes de la Flûte traversière he devotes several pages to the recorder. He recommends transposition upwards if his music is to be played on the treble recorder. (In this recording a voice flute is used; as this instrument is pitched a minor third lower than the treble recorder, all pieces on the programme are played in the original keys.)

This disc is not the first devoted to Hotteterre's music, but in my opinion it is definitely the most interesting as far as the performance practice is concerned. In his liner notes Michael Form underlines the emotional and expressive element of French music. Although a public display of human emotions was felt to be unacceptable in those days, the use of dissonances and rhetorical motifs to create a plaintive mood, for instance, shows that this music is more than just about pleasing the ear.

The expressive character is also demonstrated by the contrasts in tempo. For this recording Michael Form has looked into period publications which describe the original tempi in which dances at that time were played. "In his Elements ou principes de musique (1696), Etienne Loulié demonstrated how a pendulum can be used to determine and record musical tempi (with far greater precision than with a modern metronome!). It is astonishing how little tempo instructions for many dance movements varied over several generations". In particular the menuet turns out to be a dance which was played at a very fast tempo. It is only in the second half of the 18th century that the menuet is slowing down. Another aspect of Hotteterre's playing - as mentioned above - is the extensive ornamentation, which has also been paid attention to in this recording.

The result is a very exciting performance, which reveals aspects of French baroque music, which too often remain underexposed. This approach is not entirely new, though, as in particular Jed Wentz, with his ensemble Musica ad Rhenum, has paid attention to period writings about tempo. (Listen, for instance, to their complete recording of François Couperin's chamber music.) But is is encouraging when musicians aren't just following established practices, but are willing to study the sources themselves and take the consequences.

Johan van Veen (© 2005)

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