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CD reviews

"Les Hautbois à la Chambre du Roi"

Syntagma Amici
Dir: Jérémie Papasergio, Elsa Frank

rec: Oct 2022, Centeilles, Église Notre-Dame
Ricercar - RIC 458 (© 2022) (79'24")
Liner-notes: E/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

[in order of appearance]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687): L'amour malade (LWV 8) (ouverture pour le premier divertissement)
[Le Lever du Roi] François COUPERIN (1668-1733): Second prélude in d minor [7]; La Sultanne, sonate en quatuor in d minor
[La Mese du Roi] Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704): Ouverture pour l'eglise (H 524); André CAMPRA (1660-1744): Caeli enarrant gloriam [9]
[Un Concert pour le Roi] François COUPERIN: 11e Concert in c minor [10]; Louis-Antoine DORNEL (c1680-1756): Sonate en quatuor in b minor [4]
[Musiques de bal dansées chez le Roi] André Danican PHILIDOR (c1652-1730): Marche du Roy de la Chine [5]; Gigue ensuite [5]; Marin MARAIS (1656-1728): Gavotte en rondeau [1]; Michel de LA BARRE (c1675-1745): Canarie [2]; Marin MARAIS: Rigaudon [1]; Michel de LA BARRE: Menuets [2]; Robert DE VISÉE (c1655?-1732/33): Chaconne des Scaramouches, Trivelins et Arlequins (Lully); André Danican PHILIDOR: Marches vertes [5]; Contredance [3]; Pierre Danican PHILIDOR (1681-1731): Premier et second passepieds [8]
[Le Coucher du Roi] Jacques-Martin HOTTETERRE 'le Romain' (1673-1763): Deuxième Suitte in c minor [6]; Jean-Baptiste LULLY: Phaëton (LWV 61) (Air de Protée: Hereux qui peut voir du rivage); Michel-Richard de LALANDE: Quatuor [11]

Sources: [1] Marin Marais, Pièces en trio, 1692; [2] Michel de La Barre, Premier Livre des Trios pour les violons, flûtes et Hatbois, 1694; [3] André Danican Philidor, Suite à deux basses, 1700; [4] Louis-Antoine Dornel, 2e Livre de Simphonies, 1709; [5] André Danican Philidor, ed., Suite de Dances pour les violons & hautbois qui se jouent ordinnairement à touse les bals chez le Roy, 1712; [6] Jacques-Martin Hotteterre 'le Romain', 2e Livre de pièces pour la flûte traversière et autres instruments, 1715; [7] François Couperin, L'Art de toucher le Clavecin, 1716; [8] Pierre Danican Philidor, Trois suittes à deux flûtes traversières seules avec 3 autres suites dessus et basses pour les hautbois, flûtes et violons, 1717; [9] André Campra, Cinquième Livre de Motets, 1720; [10] François Couperin, Les goûts-réünis, ou Nouveaux concerts, 1724; [11] Michel-Richard de Lalande, Simphonies de M. De Lalande Qu'il faisoit exécuter tous les 15. jours, pendant le Souper de Louis XIV. et Louis XV., 1745

Romain Bockler, baritone; Sophie Rebreyend, recorder, oboe; Elsa Frank, recorder, oboe, taille; Anaïs Ramage, recorder, bassoon; Jérémie Papasergio, recorder, flageolet d'oiseau, bassoon, basse de cromorne; Hélène Houzel, violin, taille de violon; Manon Papasergio, treble viol, bass viol, petite basse de violon; Gabriel Rignol, theorbo, guitar, chapeau chinois; Brice Sailly, harpsichord, organ

A few years ago Ricercar released a disc of the ensemble Syntagma Amici under the title "Fastes de la Grande Écurie". It documented musical life at the French royal court, and the changes in performance practices and instruments during the 17th century. Under the reign of Louis XIII the Grande Écurie mostly played instruments which were common in the 17th century, but when Louis XIV succeeded him, new instruments came into use, such as oboes, bassoons and trumpets. The Grande Écurie played in the open air, and the rather loud and penetrating sound of the new instruments suited that practice. However, when in the last decades of the century these instruments were considered to be introduced to the other institutions of the court, the Académie royale, the Chapelle du Roi and the Chambre du Roi, these features were a problem. The volume of oboes and bassoons could easily drown out that of violins and viole da gamba, and their pitch was also too high. Therefore the wind instruments had to be adapted technically to their new roles. This was the duty of members of two dynasties of wind players and instrument makers: the Hotteterres and the Philidors.

Jérôme Lejeune, in his liner-notes, describes how gradually the winds made their way into the chambers of the palace and the chapel. It all started with Jean-Baptiste Lully, who introduced oboes and bassoons into the opera orchestra, probably in 1657. However, it is not entirely clear whether the oboes were of the kind that were used later in the chamber music. It is also possible that they were in fact the cromornes that were invented around 1651 (not to be confused with the renaissance instrument known as Krummhorn). This instrument was not in use for long, except the one in bass pitch, which was used until well into the 18th century. It appears on the present disc in the chapter with dance music.

And that brings us to the programme that Syntagma Amici recorded, which is the sequel to the above-mentioned disc. It is the musical illustration of a day in the life of Louis XIV, in which music played a major role. After an introduction with an overture by Lully, the first section is devoted to the moment the King got up. Two pieces by François Couperin are played: after a prelude for the harpsichord we hear La Sultanne, a quartet for two violins, two viole da gamba and basso continuo. It is played here on violin, oboe, bass violin and bassoon, with the basso continuo on harpsichord and theorbo.

Each day the King went to the Royal Chapel for the mass, and after an Ouverture pour l'église by Marc-Antoine Charpentier - originally scored for recorder and violins, but played here on four recorders - we hear the motet Caeli enarrant gloriam by André Campra. The booklet omits the lyrics, and therefore I can't tell what it is about.

Music was one of the main forms of entertainment at the court. The third section is called 'A concert for the King'. It opens with the 11e Concert, one of the pieces which Couperin was to publish in 1724 in the collection Les Goûts-Réünis ou Nouveaux Concerts. The line-up is left to the discretion of the performers, and here it is played on the taille de flûte (tenor recorder), oboe and violin. It is followed by a quartet by Antoine Dornel, played on quinte de flûte (a recorder sounding a fourth lower than the taille), oboe and descant viola da gamba. The basso continuo includes a bassoon.

Dancing was just as important as music: in the baroque period every person of royalty or aristocracy was supposed to be able to dance. In his youth Louis presented himself as a dancer, for instance in opera performances. The fourth section is called 'Ballet music danced before the King'. It is a sequence of short items, either specifically intended as dance music (Philidor) or dance movements from larger works (Marais, La Barre, Visée). Interesting is that Philidor's Manches vertes is his version of the English traditional song Greensleeves. In this section we hear the basse de cromorne, but also other uncommon instruments, such as the flageolet and the chapeau chinois, a percussion instrument of Turkish origin.

The ritual of the King's preparing to go to bed was accompanied with music as well; this is the subject of the closing chapter. However, it is questionable whether oboes were involved in these performances; it seems that rather soft instruments were used. The Deuxième Suitte in C minor by Jacques-Martin Hotteterre 'le Romain' is played on the oboe; the transverse flute, as mentioned in the title of the book from which this suite is taken, would have been a more obvious option, but that instrument is not used here, as the subject of this disc is the role of the loud winds. In an aria from an opera by Lully, two oboes and two recorders are accompanying the baritone Romain Bockler, and then in the last piece, a quartet by Lalande, an oboe is in action again.

It is the only less convincing part of this disc, which otherwise is very interesting and musically compelling. It documents the role of wind instruments in music making at the court, and also the importance of music as one of the main forms of entertainment. The members of Syntagma Amici are specialists on their respective instruments, and play them brilliantly. This is a worthy sequel to the first disc, and together they offer a fascinating picture of music under the ancien régime. The booklet includes pictures of the various instruments.

Johan van Veen (© 2024)

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