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Jean-François DANDRIEU (1682 - 1738): "Pièces d'orgues - Noëls; Pièces de clavecin"

Olivier Baumont, harpsichorda; André Isoir, organb

rec: 1987, Saint-Michel-en-Thiérache, Abbayeb; Saint-Quentin, Musée Antoine-Lécuyera
Tempéraments - TEM 316041.42 (2 CDs) (R) (© 2012) (CD 1: 61'21"; CD 2: 51'05")
Liner-notes: E/F

CD 1b: Livre de noëls pour l’orgue et le clavecin, 1759: Noël Chantons de voix hautaine; Noël Chantons je vous prie; Noël Joseph est bien marié; Noël Or nous dites Marie; Noël Une bergère jolie
1er livre de pièces d'Orgue, 1739: Suite en D La Ré majeur; Suite en D La Ré mineur; Suite en G Ré Sol; Suite en A Mi La
CD 2a: Livre de pièces de clavecin [1er livre], 1724: 1e Suite (L'Harmonieuse; La Plaintive; La Musète & Double de la Musète); 2e Suite (L'afligée; La Gémissante; Les Tourbillons); 3e Suite (La Bouillonante; La Fugitive; La Tranquille; Le Timpanon et quatre variations; Les Cascades); 5e Suite (La Fastueuse et cinq variations)
2e livre de pièces de clavecin, 1728: 1e Suite (La Corelli & Double de la Corelli; La Lyre d'Orphée; La Lully; Le Turbulent); 4e Suite
3ème livre de pièces de clavecin, 1734: 5e Suite (La Légère)

This set of two discs offers a selection from the output for the harpsichord and the organ of one of the main French composers of his time. Jean-François Dandrieu was born in Paris and received his first music lessons from his uncle, Pierre, organist of St Barthélemy, and probably also from Jean-Baptiste Moreau. From 1705 until his death he acted as organist of St Merry, a post earlier held by the famous Nicolas Lebègue. In the last years of his life he also succeeded to the position of his uncle at St Barthélemy.

The German theorist Marpurg states that Dandrieu was called "the German organist", probably because of his preference for counterpoint which was associated with the German style. That comes to the fore in his two collections of trio sonatas which were printed in 1705 and 1710 respectively. The organ works also show his mastery of counterpoint; he often makes use of fugues. At the same time his organ suites are quite modern in that they include pieces which show the influence of Lully's operas. Some pieces are transcriptions of movements from his trio sonatas. There are also pieces which one often finds in harpsichord suites and instrumental works of the time, such as the musette. A piece like the Duo en cors de chasse sur la trompette (Suite en D La Ré majeur) has little in common with the more 'ecclesiastical' style of the 17th century. Dandrieu's organ suites bear witness to the changes in organ music in the early 18th century which is also reflected by the almost complete disappearance of plainchant melodies.

A genre typical of French organ music was the Noël, variations on popular Christmas carols. This set includes five of such pieces; they come from a book of Noëls which was printed 21 years after his death, probably by his sister who was also an organist. These are not original compositions, but rather arrangements or reworkings of pieces by his uncle Pierre. Modern influences are traceable here as well, such as a variation over a repeated chord, a kind of drone, in Chantons de voix hautaine.

The organ music is played by André Isoir, one of the early advocates of classical French organ music. He plays a historical organ from 1714 which miraculously has escaped some major disasters such as two fires and the First World War when the pipes of many organs were used for the construction of weapons. In 1980 it was restored to its original condition; the pitch is the same as in 1714, one tone below modern pitch, whereas the temperament is after Lambert Chaumont. Isoir delivers fine performances in which we can hear the broad spectrum of this organ with its typical reed stops, such as trompette, cromorne and nasard. The articulation is not always as clear as one would wish, but that doesn't reduce the importance of this reissue.

How much Dandrieu was concerned about closing up with contemporary fashion is demonstrated by his oeuvre for the harpsichord. Between 1710 and 1720 he published two harpsichord books; in 1724 and 1728 two further books were printed, as his first and second books. That seems to indicate that he wanted to distance himself from his earlier works. In these two later books every indication of traditional dance forms has disappeared; instead we find character pieces as they had become popular at the time, and were included in the harpsichord books of François Couperin. Dandrieu treated them differently, though. Whereas Couperin's purpose was the musical expression of an idea, Dandrieu used the titles to indicate the character of the respective pieces and the way they should be played. Couperin started with the idea, Dandrieu with the music.

Another feature of Dandrieu's harpsichord suites is the frequent use of variations. The second disc begins with La Fastueuse with five variations and the last piece from the first book recorded here is La Timpanon with four variations. A sign of the modernity of Dandrieu's harpsichord music is that many pieces have the form of a rondeau. L'Harmonieuse, from the first Suite of the First Book, is a sequence of three rondeaux.

Olivier Baumont plays a historical instrument, constructed by Benoist-Stehlin in 1750; it was restored in 1974. Baumont gives fine performances which show his sensitivity towards the style of Dandrieu. He doesn't try to make the more extroverted pieces too spectacular, whereas the more intimate pieces come off with refinement and subtlety. Among the highlights are La Lyre d'Orphée from the Second Book and the already mentioned L'Harmonieuse.

In particular some of Dandrieu's Noëls now and then appear on recital discs. There are also some discs with harpsichord pieces, but as far as I know there is still no complete recording of his organ and harpsichord oeuvre. That is most regrettable; this set convincingly demonstrates the quality of his oeuvre. This production is a worthwhile tribute to this great composer.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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Olivier Baumont

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