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Jacques PAISIBLE (James PESIBLE) (c1656 - 1721): "Complete recorder sonatas"

Musicke's Pleasure Garden

rec: April 24, May 1 - 4, Nov 13 - 16 & Dec 6 - 8, 2011, Stift Rein (A), Weisser Saal
paladino music - pmr0071 (2 CDs) (© 2015) (2.09'22")
Liner-notes: E/D
Cover & track-list

Sonata I in D; Sonata II in E flat; Sonata III in B flat; Sonata IV in d minor - Allemanda in d minor*; Sonata V in g minor; Sonata VI in d minor; Sonata VII in e minor; Sonata VIII in c minor; Sonata IX in B flat; Sonata X in F; Sonata XI in d minor; Sonata XII in F; Sonata XIII in C; Sonata XVI in a minor; Sonata XVII for two recorders in Fa; Sonatina XVIII for two recorders in B flata; Sonatina XV in e minor; Suite XIX in F; Vale Royall XIV in a minor
(*) additional movement from Recueil de pieces choisies a une et deux flutes C. Babl (Babell-ms)

Michael Hell, Susanna Borscha, recorder; Rebeka Rusó, viola da gamba; Thomas Platzgummer, cello; Sam Chapman, archlute; Eva Maria Pollerus, harpsichord

In the first quarter of the 18th century England experienced an influx of musicians and composers from across the continent. They came from everywhere: Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy. London was the place to be when a musician wanted to make a career as a performer. Composers could take profit from the large demand for music by the growing number of amateurs. London also had a flourishing music printing business.

However, England had already attracted musicians from overseas in the previous century. In 1655 the German violinist Thomas Baltzar settled in England and in the 1670s his Italian colleague Nicola Matteis. Their instrument was known, but they demonstrated a way of playing the violin which was new to England. It was a feature of the baroque idiom which had not at that stage fully established itself in England. At about the same time as Matteis the French recorder player and oboist Jacques Paisible settled in England. He brought with him instruments which were new. The oboe had been developed around the middle of the 17th century in France and was unknown in England. That was soon to change: Henry Purcell was one of those composers who used it in his compositions. In 1695 Paisible himself composed a work for oboe band, The Queen's Farewell, at the occasion of the death of Queen Mary.

The recorder was a different case: it was one of the most popular instruments, especially among amateurs, but they still played renaissance recorders. The recorder Paisible had learnt to play was different. In the ensuing decades new recorders were built, for instance by Peter Bressan, a maker of wind instruments of French origin - baptized as Pierre Jaillard - who settled in England in 1688. According to the liner-notes Paisible played his instruments; they were close friends and Paisible appointed Bressan an executor of his estate in England.

Another close friend was Charles (François) Dieupart, another musician of French birth who had come to England. He is best-known for his harpsichord suites which also appeared in a version for flute, violin and bc and later were published by Walsh for recorder and bc. Dieupart also accompanied Paisible on the harpsichord. Together they often performed at the Drury Lane Theatre and the Queen's Theatre. Paisible regularly participated in performances of music for the stage, on the bass violin and later the cello, but also as a recorder player in the intervals of stage works. In addition he acted as composer of stage music for the Drury Lane Theatre.

In his capacity as a professional recorder player his only rival was John Baston. Professional recorder players were very rare and this could exlain why the sonatas recorded by the ensemble Musicke's Pleasure Garden were never printed. These pieces are mostly beyond the capabilities of amateurs and therefore wouldn't find a market. They are part of a manuscript which is now preserved in the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris. It includes the complete music for recorder solo by Paisible.

This oeuvre is divided into thirteen sonatas, two suites and a piece called Vale Royall. It is not known what the meaning of vale is here; the liner-notes suggest it could mean ballet. That would make sense considering that Paisible was a composer of music for the theatre. There are also several movements which could well have had their origin in the theatre, for instance the Hornpipe Roundo which close the Suite XIX. Suite XVI also has strong theatrical traits. The sonatas are different in texture. The number of movements varies from four to six; some movements are in binary form, starting with a slow section followed by a fast episode or vice versa. Many movements have no tempo indication. In a number of cases the tempo indications in the Paris collection differ from those in other sources. Sometimes they are pretty close: there is no fundamental difference between an adagio and a grave. However, in the Paris manuscript the Sonata XII opens with a grave but a manuscript in Versailles has here vivace. It would have been nice to hear this movement in two ways, but the performers have decided - in the case of different indications - to follow the Paris version.

The two suites are in five and in nine movements respectively. Here most movements have English titles, such as jigg, rigadon and symph(ony). The Vale Royall comprises four movements; the first has no indication, the other three are in Italian: allemanda, sarabanda, giga. The collection also includes two duets for recorders. Paisible published two sets of six duets each as his op. 1 and op. 2 respectively. Whether the duets recorded here are identical with sonatas from the op. 1 is not mentioned in the liner-notes. The six Setts op. 2 are different; these were recorded by Musica Barocca (Naxos, 2000).

The performers have given various aspects of performance practice much thought. They have taken into consideration that Paisible played with various harpsichordists: the French-born Dieupart and Robert Cambert, the Englishmen John Blow and William Babell and the German Johann Christoph Pepusch. He also regularly played with the Italian violinist Gasparo Visconti. This has led to the adoption of different styles in various aspects of interpretation. One of these is the use of the flattement or finger vibrato on longer notes. In the way the basso continuo is realized the ensemble also takes differences between the Italian and the French taste into account.

This is the first recording of the complete music for recorder and basso continuo by Paisible. Single sonatas and some other pieces from his pen have been recorded, but ArkivMusic lists just one disc entirely devoted to Paisible - the Naxos disc mentioned before - and some other which include single pieces. With this in mind the present set is highly important. That is even more the case considering the quality of these sonatas. These were not written for amateurs but for Paisible's own use and confirm contemporary assessments of his skills. He was called "a famous master of the flute" whose "equal is not to be found". I have listened to these two discs at a stretch, and that didn't cause me any problem at all. These sonatas are captivating and entertaining; there is no dull moment here. That is also thanks to the interpretation the Musicke's Pleasure Garden. The playing is lively and engaging; the influences of various national styles in the interpretation contribute to the variety in these performances but also the differentiation in the line-up of the basso continuo group. Archlute, theorbo and bass viol were common instruments in England; the use of a cello seems a little questionable as I am not sure whether it was already in use in England around 1700.

This recording should appeal to a wider audience than just recorder aficionados.

Johan van Veen (© 2016)

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