Bach and the French
Starts from: November 20, 2017
Start Time 7:00 pm End Time8:30 pm
Monday, 20th of November 2017, 7.00 pm, Anglican Church Bucharest
The Baroque era of French music stands out by glamour and elegance. It is not less than “bon goût”, an expression often describing all the arts. The 17th and 18th centuries represented the climax of the French musical Baroque. It was then that the French royalty was at its best as large territories of the New World were now part of its realm which was a real and strong empire. The musical history of France during the rein of the Bourbon dynasty was marked by the personality of King Louis XIV who influenced directly this cultural area. An excellent dancer and guitar player but also an absolute monarch, Louis XIV imposed a highly and positively controlled development of music.
The French harpsichord school projected in the European musical environment a series of composers working for the Court or the renowned French cathedrals: Jaques Champion de Chambonnièrres, Jean Henry d’Anglebert, François Couperin, Jean Philippe Rameau, Michel Corrette, Antoine Forqueray, Jean Baptiste Antoine Foqueray, Jaques Duphly. The subsequent musical development was greatly influenced by the French musical creation and the theoretical and interpretation treatises of that epoch. Much like the Italians, the French left a “stylistic footprint”, including the case of outstanding names like that of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The recital of this evening brings three composers of the French School, namely, Jean Henry d’Anglebert, Jean Philippe Rameau, Jean Baptiste Antoine Forqueray, and ends with one of Johann Sebastian Bach’ English Suites.
Jean Henry d’Anglebert (a student of Chambonnierrès – “the founder of the French harpsichord school”) was at first the court musician of Duke de Orléans, the brother of Lois XIV. In 1662 he was appointed Ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du roi pour le clavecin and gradually took over his teacher’s duties. The most significant works of d’Anglebert are to be found in the volume Pièces de Clavecin (Paris, 1689). The value of the volume stands not only in its musical content but also in its esthetic appearance. The design of the volume is deemed as one of the most beautiful engravings of its times. This is the reason why many copies still exist. Jean Henry d’Anglebert paid extreme attention to how he noted his pieces, with minute details, including the unmeasured preludes. He authored the most intricate ornaments table up to François Couperin thus having an essential role in the diversification and improvement of musical ornamentation.
A complex musical personality, Jean Philippe Rameau was the only composer “to have been a true competitor” to the unparalleled Lully, the court musician of Louis XIV. Nobody believed then that the talent and outstanding force of this musician could have been exceeded by someone else. Jean Philippe Rameau stood out in the evolution of opera as a genre, but his fame has other sources as well. His theoretical writings are recognized as grand achievements for the development of music. The collections of instrumental works, especially those for harpsichord or instrumental ensembles with obbligato harpsichord are also representative for the European Baroque music. Five suites of large pieces dedicated to the harpsichord, two interpretation methods for harpsichord as well as two ornament tables with related explanations are just the achievements of the first half of the composer’s creation. Along with them, an impressive treatise on harmony (“Traité de l’harmonie”, 1722) remained a benchmark for the development of music language up to our times.
“The talent of these two authors, as well as their works are so well known, that one cannot argue that someone would have heard of them for the first time in their lives. Praises to them reverberate profoundly in the world of connoisseurs and in the public conscience” – as “Mercure de France” announces in 1747 the appearance of the volume “Pièces de viole composées par Mr. Forqueray le Père Mises en Pièces de Clavecin par Mr. Forqueray le fils”. Since he was a child Antoine Forqueray had already won the respect of King Louis XIV due to his great talent as a viola da gamba player. “… There are just a few who can be a match to him. Everytime he appeared at the royal dinners, he played during the meals and ended in the extended applause of their Majesties” stated the same French publication, ever since Antoine was only ten years old. After becoming Ordinaire de la Musique de Chambre du Roi in 1689 Antoine took an active part in the musical life at the Court along with musicians like François Couperin, Jean Buterne or Robert de Visée. Gifted just like his father with an early talent Jean-Baptiste-Antoine grew later a reputed viola da gamba player in the musical life of Paris. Jean-Baptiste-Antoine succeeded his father in the Chambre du Roi, making himself noted also as an excellent pedagogue. It is worth mentioning here his student, Madame Henriette, the daughter of Louis XV, who created “Pièces de Viole” – some suites for her father to which he added basso continuo (“Pièces de Viole avec la basse continue”). In the same year (1747), Jean-Baptiste-Antoine published also the solo harpsichord variant of these pieces – an extra argument for the role the harpsichord would continue to play. The harpsichord remained the preferred instrument, especially by amateur musicians. Given that the solo position of viola da gamba had been threated in the French culture by the violin and the cello, the harpsichord continued to be the “perfect” society instrument, cultivated by distinguished people. Harpsichord repertoire developed as the instrument’s technical construction improved. An important role in this respect was played by the development of a growing number of harpsichord construction workshops, particularly in Paris.
This is also about harpsichord, but linked to the creation of Johann Sebastian Bach. It is remarkable the way in which Bach revealed by his works the differences between the organ and the harpsichord. Even more interesting are the differences he traced within the family of keyboard and string instruments (harpsichord, clavichord, clavilute) or even between one manual and two manual harpsichords. At the same time, let us not forget of the impressive quantity of works dedicated to the harpsichord which, much like in the French school, was an important solo instrument. If we only think of some of the works – French Suites, English Suites, Harpsichord partitas, Italian Concerto, Goldberg Variations or the concertos for one, two, three or four harpsichords – we can realize the special weight Bach gave to this instrument. All along his career, Bach was not only a virtuoso of keyboard instruments, but an excellent teacher as well. That is why many of his harpsichord works were devised to help those wishing to study the instrument.
The English Suites (BWV 806 – 811) were composed towards the end of the time Bach spent at Weimar (1708 – 1717). Except for the collection’s title which is somewhat confusing, their composition style draw to a great extent from the composition style of the French harpsichord school. Just like the French Suites (BWV 812 – 817) or Partitas (BWV 825 – 830), the English Suites follow the established (ever since the 17th century) structure of the Baroque allemande – courante – saraband dances, which are added a jig at the end. All the six suites begin with preludes, like in the case of the French school suites. The difference is that its preludes have better contoured metric structures unlike the unmeasured preludes of the French school. By their complexity and diversity the English Suites are a landmark of Bach’s harpsichord creation.
English version Cosmin Bădulețeanu
Jean-Henry d’Anglebert (1629 – 1691):
From „Pièces de Clavecin” (1689):
Prèlude non mesure ré mineur (1689) – Allemande – Courante – Double de la Courante – Sarabande grave – Gigue
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764):
From „Piéces de Clavecin” 1724, 1728:
La Joyeuse – L’entretien des Muses – Les Tourbillons (1724)
Les Triolets (1728)
La Dauphine (1747)
Jean-Babtiste Antoine Forqueray (1699 – 1782)
From „Piéces de Viole mises en piéces de Clavecin” (1747):
La Angrave – La du Vaucel – La Morangis ou La Plissay – La Sylva – Jupiter
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750):
From „Six grandes Suites dites Suites anglaises pour le Clavecin”:
Suita a 4 a, in F major, BWV 809
Prèlude – Allemande – Courante – Sarabande – Minuet I & II – Gigue
Ketil Haugsand – harpsichord
Ketil Haugsand studied with Gustav Leonhardt at the Amsterdam Conservatory, where he was awarded the coveted Prix d’Excellence in 1975. Later he was laureate at international harpsichord competitions in Paris and Brûges.
Ketil Haugsand, professor of harpsichord at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne and Royal Conservatory Copenhagen, counts as one of the great harpsichordists and Early Music personalities of today – appearing in many prestigious festivals and concert series in Europe, the U.S.A. and Asia, both as recitalist, in chamber music, or as leader and conductor of the Norwegian Baroque Orchestra, the Arte Real Ensemble, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Oslo Radio Orchestra and at the Komische Oper Berlin.
Prof. Haugsand is one of the most sought-after harpsichord teachers on the academic level today; he also gives regularly summer courses in Norway, Portugal and Italy and is frequently invited as jury member at international harpsichord competitions.
His recordings on CD with works by Rameau, Marchand, Seixas, Sousa Carvalho &c., for Simax, Virgin and Linn have won significant international acclaim. His interpretations of the Clavierübungen by J.S. Bach – and especially the Goldberg Variations – have been singled out as highly original and outstanding landmark performances.