1 JUN 2022

7:45 pm – 9:15 pm
Salle de musique / avenue Léopold-Robert 27, La Chaux-de-Fonds

Jean Rondeau harpsichord Thomas Dunford luth

Dialogue on the rising and King’s bedtime

The reign of Louis XIV (from 1661 to 1715) was particularly rich artistically. A great lover of art in general, and music in particular, the king sang, played the guitar and had a strong taste for dancing. Music was omnipresent at court and accompanied both exceptional moments and daily rituals. From the Great Rising to Supper and Bedtime, the rigorous ceremonial that punctuated the monarch’s life gave rise to pieces by major players in the musical life of Louis XIV’s long reign.

Robert De Visée (circa 1650-1665 – after 1732) Suite in D minor (lute and harpsichord) Marin Marais (1656-1728) Les Voix humaines, Lentement (from the Suite No. 3, Second book of viola da gamba and luth) François Couperin (1668-1733) Premier Prélude en do majeur (from L’Art de toucher le clavecin) La Ménetou, Le Dodo ou l’amour au berceau, La Ténébreuse, La Favorite (lute and harpsichord) Jean-Henry D’Anglebert (1629-1691) Prélude (from the Suite in D minor, harpsichord) Sarabande Grave (lute and harpsichord) Antoine Forqueray (father, 1672-1745) Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray (son, 1699-1745) La Portugaise La Sylva Jupiter (Lute and harpsichord) At the beginning of the Baroque period, French composers of solo instrumental music created a language that would inspire many composers from the rest of Europe. In the 17th century, the lute found its home in France: while the first books of lute pieces contain primarily transcriptions of vocal works, later collections offer a totally instrumental repertoire. Virtuoso lutenists such as Denis Gaultier considerably developed the language of the lute: free polyphonic writing, complex ornaments and a broken style (the arpeggio). Little by little, the guitar came to the forefront of the scene (witness the paintings of Watteau, where courtiers and shepherds prefer the guitar to the lute). One musician was to arouse the court’s infatuation with this instrument, certainly less noble, but nevertheless simpler technically speaking: it was Robert de Visée, composer, multi-instrumentalist and guitar teacher to the king. Often required to instruct or sometimes entertain Monseigneur le Dauphin (the future Louis XV), Robert de Visée also stood at the monarch’s bedside in the evening to play the guitar. The work we will hear here is the Suite in D minor: it is a suite of dances in which the contrasts between each of the movements are explored with a unifying principle, the single key. At this time, dance dominated French music. Pour le musicien, la connoissance de l’art de la danse est d’un grand secours pour mieux connoître le vray mouvement de chaque pièce et conserver le mouvement de la mesure. Robert de Visée often took part in Mme de Maintenon’s sumptuous soirées, where his partners included Couperin, Rebel and Forqueray. Antoine Forqueray, an outstanding gambist, has composed numerous pieces for the viol. Considering himself to be the only one capable of interpreting them, he opposed their publication all his life. It was his son, Jean-Baptiste, also an excellent gambist, who published his father’s works for viola da gamba as well as these same pieces transcribed for the harpsichord (where he set about preserving the low tessitura proper to the viol). At that time, most of the works were works in movement: when a composer wrote a piece, he or other musicians transposed it and adapted it to different types of instrumentation. It is on the harpsichord that La Portugaise, La Sylva, La Jupiter will be performed: pieces characterized by great theatricality and formidable sound power. It can be stated that no one has surpassed Marais, only one man has equalled him, the famous Forqueray. By saying that one played like a god and the other like a devil, the monarch himself seems to have had fun orchestrating the rivalry between Marais and Forqueray. Marin Marais, an extremely talented and prolific composer and performer, brought the art of the viol to a very high level of perfection. Between 1686 and 1725, he published five volumes of viol pieces, from which Les Voix Humaines, a work of great sensuality, is extracted. As most composers of his time, Marais drew his inspiration from literary sources, more precisely theatrical sources (Molière and Racine) and was inspired by the language of lyrical tragedy, of which Jean-Baptiste Lully is the most illustrious representative (the inescapable Monsieur de Lully, who appears on most of the dedications of the works heard tonight). Gaultier’s musical legacy survives in harpsichord music. It is in Jacques Champion de Chambonnières that the French harpsichord school finds its first great representative: a harpsichordist at the French court, his influence is considerable, especially on Louis Couperin (François’ uncle) and Jean-Henri d’Anglebert (who took over as Ordinary of the Music of the King’s Chamber for the harpsichord). In 1689, the latter published his Pièces de clavecin, the only work in which he added transcriptions of works by Lully to the dance suites of his composition. In France, this book is the first printed work to include a table of ornaments indicating the manner in which they are to be performed. We will discover the Prelude in D minor and the Sarabande Grave. Nicknamed “le Grand” because of his exceptional mastery of the organ and undisputed master of the harpsichord, François Couperin succeeded Jean-Henri d’Anglebert as court organist and also held the position of organist at the Chapelle Royale. Known today notably for his moving Leçons de ténèbres, he published a reference treatise, L’art de toucher le clavecin, which instructs the performer on the beautiful Touch of the Harpsichord and the taste appropriate to this instrument. His mutinous, sensual pieces, with poetic and mischievous titles, are as many small portraits and landscapes, bringing Couperin closer to the fabulist La Fontaine or the painter Watteau. During this royal evening, Jean Rondeau and Thomas Dunford, two alchemists who are keen on experimentation, will revisit the subtle and sublime French baroque of this period rich in contrasts, where the music is at once refined, flamboyant, theatrical and poetic. The King is dead! Long live the music! Comment: Céline Hänni, Centre de culture ABC