Artist(s): Debora Rosti, Piccolo
Performing Baroque music on the piccolo might seem like a wild idea to some. But even though the approach is not philological, that doesn’t mean it lacks depth. It remains to be seen how today we can presume to respect criteria of “authenticity” (understood as remaining as close as possible to the aesthetics and the material conditions of the period) after more than three centuries. Isn’t it just a more refined, and perhaps even slightly cultural utopia?
It would be better define this collection as postmodern, a step beyond traditional structures and styles, a refusal of artificially imposed order, affirming the idea that nothing can stably rest on a final meaning. […]
Charles Delusse: (b ?1720–25; d after 1774). French composer, flautist and writer on music. The name Charles was supplied by Fétis; contemporary sources identify him by only his last name or by the initials D.L. Following Choron and Fayolle (1810–11) writers have confused his activities with those of the woodwind instrument makers Jacques and Christophe Delusse. Although the composer is designated as ‘Le Sr Delusse le fils’ in the earliest known reference to him (Mercure de France, June 1743), there is no demonstrable connection between him and the other Delusses and no contemporary reference to his activity in instrument making. According to Gerber, Lusse was a flautist at the Opéra-Comique in about 1760, but neither his claim, nor Fétis’s statement that he entered that orchestra in 1758 is confirmed by contemporary sources. He may have been active earlier in Paris as a flautist and flute teacher since he published several works there for that instrument between 1751 and 1757. He also composed vocal music, including a one-act comic opera and numerous songs, and he edited the earliest collection of romances, which appeared in 1767. In the 1760s he produced three theoretical works: a flute method first published in late 1760 or early 1761, a proposed reform of solmization syllables using only vowel sounds, and the article ‘Musique’ for the collection of tables to Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie. He may also have either written or published a dictionary of music, for in 1765 the Mercure de France announced that anyone interested in such a work should address himself to M. de Lusse. He is last mentioned in 1774. Lusse was an important figure of the French flute school, particularly because of his experimentation with innovative techniques. His solo sonatas, all three-movement works, are full of brilliant effects and complex rhythms, dynamics and articulation markings. They exploit a higher range than previous French flute works, and the sixth sonata is the first to call for harmonics and double-tonguing. An explanation and table of fingerings for harmonics also appear in the collection – the latter more extensive than the one in Lusse’s flute method. His trios for flute, violin and cello are the earliest French examples of flute trios without a figured bass part. While the flute largely predominates in them, they are still somewhat conversational in style. Their slow movements possess a remarkable depth of feeling. Lusse’s L’art de la flûte traversière, although not a lengthy treatise, has important discussions of ornaments, tonguing and vibrato. Moens-Haenen points out that its treatment of ornamentation and vibrato is similar to that of Geminiani’s The Art of Playing on the Violin (London, 1751). L’art de la flûte traversière also contains an important early example of progressive studies, preludes in 20 different keys and 12 long and difficult caprices or cadenzas ‘suitable for the exercise of the embouchure and fingers, that can also be used at the end of concertos’. These are the earliest independent cadenzas in French flute literature, and also mark the beginning of the true flute étude in France. There is also an Air à la grecque (ed. R. Rasch, Utrecht, 1984) featuring quarter-tones, for which Lusse supplied a fingering chart. At least one extant copy of the method also has a handwritten description of fingering on a six-keyed flute tipped into it.
Johann Christoph Pepusch: (b Berlin, 1667; d London, 20 July 1752). German composer and theorist. He was the son of a Protestant minister and studied music theory under one Klingenberg (probably not the son of the Stettin organist Friedrich Gottlieb Klingenberg as Hawkins stated, but perhaps an elder relation), and practice under Grosse, a Saxon organist. From the age of 14 he was employed at the Prussian court, where he remained until about the end of the 17th century. According to Hawkins he resolved to leave Germany after witnessing the execution without trial of a Prussian officer accused of insubordination ‘and put himself under the protection of a government founded on better principles’. After travelling through Holland, some time after September 1697 he settled in London, where he remained for the rest of his life; from 1707 he lived at Hooker’s (later Boswell) Court near Lincoln’s Inn Fields. He is known to have frequented the concerts of Thomas Britton at Clerkenwell, and it was probably there that he became acquainted with the poet and dramatist John Hughes, with whom he later collaborated in a number of works. His first permanent employment in London was as a viola player, and later harpsichordist at Drury Lane Theatre in 1704. His only stage work from this period was the pasticcio Thomyris, Queen of Scythia, but he was well known as a composer of instrumental music, much of it published in both Amsterdam and London, and as a performer in and organizer of public and private concerts. In January 1708 he joined the opera company operating from Vanburgh’s Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket. There he served as violinist, harpsichordist, and agent for the soprano Margherita de l’Epine. The German traveller Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach described a concert he attended in June 1710 at which l’Epine sang, accompanied by members of the opera house band directed by Pepusch from the harpsichord. Pepusch and l’Epine were married some time between 1718 (the traditional date, but now impossible to establish) and 1723; their only son, who died in July 1739 after showing considerable talent and promise, was baptized on 9 January 1724. In July 1713 Pepusch, along with William Croft, was awarded the degree of DMus at Oxford; the music he submitted for this occasion, including the ode Hail, queen of islands! Hail, illustrious fair, has not survived. In 1714 Pepusch moved to Drury Lane as musical director and over the next two seasons contributed four essays in the genre of the English masque: Venus and Adonis, Myrtillo and Laura, Apollo and Daphne and The Death of Dido. These were intended as independent afterpieces, with plots that are completely self-contained, interpolate no real element of comedy, and have a tragic dénouement. In autumn 1716 he transferred to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, where he served as musical director for much of the next 15 years but he composed little of importance for the stage. Sometime after this date Pepusch became involved with the musical establishment of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon, and he was replaced by John Ernest Galliard as musical director at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1717–18 season. His presence at Cannons, Brydges’s estate near Edgware in Middlesex, can be documented from as early as December 1717, and he and George Frideric Handel were both there in April 1718. Although he was again active at Lincoln’s Inn Fields for the 1718–19 season, Pepusch seems to have been appointed musical director at Cannons in mid-1719 with a salary of £25 per quarter, perhaps as a consequence of Brydges’ reorganization of his household on his elevation to the title of first Duke of Chandos in April of that year. Pepusch was responsible for providing music for the duke’s chapel and chamber on a regular basis until mid-1721, presumably dividing his time between Cannons and his London house. After this date the duke cut back his musical establishment in response to financial losses, but Pepusch continued to provide occasional musicians from London until 1725, when organized musical activity at Cannons seems to have ceased. Pepusch provided two new works for the 1723–4 season at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, The Union of the Three Sister Arts and a revision of Betterton’s The Prophetess, or The History of Dioclesian, and presumably conducted the band for the famous series of pantomimes between 1723 and 1730 featuring the theatre owner John Rich as Harlequin and music by Galliard. He was almost certainly in charge for the opening night of John Gay’s famous satire The Beggar’s Opera on 29 January 1728, for which he probably composed the overture and may have arranged the airs (although the printed bass lines do not reflect his elegance and technical skill). A sequel, Polly, was published in 1729, but censorship prevented its performance on stage until after Pepusch’s death. Pepusch probably retired from the theatre at the end of the 1732–3 season and subsequently concentrated primarily on his antiquarian interests. In 1735, when he moved to Fetter Lane, Pepusch reorganized the Academy of Ancient Music (of which he had been a founder-member in 1726) as a seminary for the musical instruction of young boys. In December 1737 he was made organist of the Charterhouse, and in 1745 (the year before his wife died) he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society, to whom he delivered a paper ‘Of the Various Genera and Species of Music Among the Ancients’. Throughout his career he was much sought after as a teacher, his pupils including Boyce, Benjamin Cooke, J.H. Roman, John Travers, George Berg, James Nares and Ephraim Kellner. After his death Travers and Kellner shared with the Academy of Ancient Music their master’s extensive and important library of books and music, among which was the collection of virginal music now known as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Largely as a result of Burney’s estimate of him, posterity has tended to look upon Pepusch as an academic pedant who opposed Handel’s cause in England. He was certainly the most learned musical antiquarian of his day, but to regard him only in this way is to ignore the lively theatre music and the elegant English cantatas, which are mostly carefully composed, but by no means dry. And though the success of The Beggar’s Opera contributed to Handel’s difficulties in promoting Italian opera for the Royal Academy, there is no indication of any personal or professional enmity between the two men. Even after 1728 Pepusch subscribed to publications of Handel’s operas, and he also arranged performances of his music by the Academy of Ancient Music. The unprecedented popularity of The Beggar’s Opera, for which Pepusch may have supplied only the basses and an overture that uses one of the opera’s popular tunes, has tended to overshadow his own music. His earliest surviving works are mostly instrumental and include well over 100 violin sonatas and several recorder and flute sonatas. These are mostly modelled on the four-movement plan of Corelli, whose sonatas and concertos Pepusch later edited for publication in London. Particularly interesting are the manuscript sets of sonatas composed for various English violinists, each containing 16 works in as many different keys, thus anticipating (and going beyond) the similar arrangement of Bach’s two- and three-part Inventions. (Pepusch included B major in addition to the keys that Bach used.) Most, if not all, of Pepusch’s church music was written for the Duke of Chandos. It consists mainly of verse anthems in which soloists and chorus alternate, often with quite elaborate instrumental accompaniment. The Magnificat is similarly composed, though on a larger scale, and may well have been written to celebrate the opening of the chapel at Cannons in August 1720. Some anthems exist in versions for male voices and continuo, which may reflect the economies forced upon the duke in the 1720s, or possibly performances at the Academy of Ancient Music after the boys of St Paul’s and the Chapel Royal had been withdrawn in 1731. Some of Pepusch’s most attractive vocal writing is found in the secular cantatas, written, according to Hughes’s preface to the first printed collection, ‘as an Experiment of introducing a sort of Composition which had never been naturaliz’d in our Language’. Pepusch’s cantatas are italianate in their structure of two arias separated (and usually preceded) by recitative and in the almost invariable use of the da capo form, but the music itself often tends towards the kind of English tunefulness that kept his most famous cantata, Alexis, popular for over a century. Alexis is for voice and continuo only, but most of the other cantatas include an obbligato instrument, which Pepusch combined in skilful counterpoints with the voice and bass. Many cantatas were sung as interludes in the theatre, but some at least were designed for more intimate performance. Four out of the six cantatas in the second printed volume (dedicated to the Duke of Chandos) include a part for solo recorder (see fig.2) and were probably performed at Cannons. Pepusch’s writing in his masques is intentionally italianate, with da capo arias, secco recitatives and typical Italian instrumentation using strings and woodwind; there is hardly any use of chorus or dances. These masques, in particular the longest and most successful, Venus and Adonis, are virtually operatic presentations in miniature. Pepusch seems to have retired from composition after about 1729 and devoted himself mainly to the study and performance of ancient music. His most important theoretical work, A Treatise on Harmony, was published anonymously in 1730, possibly at the instigation of his pupil, Viscount Paisley, and revised the following year. It represents a last-ditch attempt to restore solmization as a basis for the instruction of harmonic theory. Pepusch’s brother Heinrich Gottfried (d 1750), an oboist employed by the Elector of Brandenburg, visited London in 1704; no compositions by him are known.
Johann Joachim Quantz (b Oberscheden, Hanover, 30 Jan 1697; d Potsdam, 12 July 1773). German flautist, composer, writer on music and flute maker.
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: (b Thionville, 23 Dec 1689; d Roissy-en-Brie, 28 Oct 1755). French composer. He spent his childhood in Thionville, and went to Metz about 1700. In 1713 he was receveur de la régie royale des tabacsfor the Roussillon troops at Perpignan. On 7 November 1720 he married Marie Valette, the daughter of the city treasurer Guillaume Valette. He remained in Perpignan until about 1723, when he settled in Paris. In September 1724 he took out a royal privilege to engrave his works and began the process of publishing them, which ceased only on his death. From 1743 to 1745 he was sous-chef and then chef d’orchestre at the Foire St Laurent, and also, in 1745, at the Foire St Germain. He was a prolific composer of very profitable works, which according to the Mercure de France (October 1747) brought him over 500,000 écus, enabling him to live a life of fame and luxury without holding any official post. His Christmas motet Fugit nox (now lost), on themes from noëls, was popular at the Concert Spirituel from 1743 to 1770, with L.-C. Daquin and C.-B. Balbastre at the organ. His pastorale Daphnis et Chloé, to a libretto by Pierre Laujon, was well received when it was performed at the Opéra in September 1747, and was even parodied at the Comédie-Italienne under the title of Les bergers de qualité when it was revived on 4 May 1752. After his death his daughter continued to sell his available works, and also published several more. Boismortier wrote a great deal of music. Many of his compositions, intended for amateur ensembles, require only average technical skill and envisage various possible combinations of instruments, as witness the Sonates pour une flûte et un violon par accords sans basse op.51 and the sonatas for two bassoons and four flutes. He also composed for such fashionable instruments of the time as the musette, hurdy-gurdy and transverse flute. This last was his favourite instrument, and he considerably extended its repertory. In his instrumental pieces he devoted equal attention to the various parts, which can consist simply of a series of imitations; in his earliest sonatas for keyboard and flute, op.91 (c1741–2), the two instruments are complementary, whereas it was usual in such works at the time for the harpsichord to dominate. Boismortier adopted the three-movement form favoured by Italian composers. He wrote concertos for many different instruments. Some, such as his VI concertos pour cinq flûtes traversières ou autres instruments sans basse op.15 (1727), are for unusual ensembles. These are not so much solo concertos as works in the French style of François Couperin’s Concerts royaux (1722) and Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concert (1741). Boismortier’s cantatas and motets skilfully mingle French and Italian elements, with ternary form dominating in the airs. The rather lightweight anonymous texts of his cantatas are typical of the period. He was most at ease in short forms, and after 1738 followed fashion by abandoning the cantata in favour of the cantatille. His agreeable melodies were designed to please the taste of his audience, and the virtuoso vocal writing in his motets is strongly influenced by the Italian style. In his stage works he collaborated with the great librettists of the period: Charles-Antoine Le Clerc de La Bruère (who also wrote the libretto of Rameau’s Dardanus), Pierre Laujon and Charles-Simon Favart. He composed to suit the taste of the time, as in his ballet-comique on a fashionable theme, Don Quichotte chez la duchesse, in which the music does not attempt any local Japanese colour but consists of lively, facile melodies. Boismortier’s pedagogical works (tutors for the flute and the descant viol) are apparently lost, but the fact that he wrote them is evidence of a didactic concern also shown in such instrumental works as his Diverses pièces pour une flûte traversière seule … propres pour ceux qui commencent à jouer de cet instrument op.22 (1728), and his Quinque sur l’octave, ou Dictionnaire harmonique (1734). Boismortier’s music demonstrates great facility, and one regrets that he wrote so few works on a large scale. It is difficult not to agree with La Borde, who said: ‘He will always be regarded by professionals as a good harmonist … anyone who will take the trouble to excavate this abandoned mine might find enough gold dust there to make up an ingot’.
Michel Blavet: (bap. Besançon, 13 March 1700; d Paris, 28 Oct 1768). French flautist and composer. The son of Jean-Baptiste Blavet, a turner, and Oudette Lyard, he taught himself several instruments, becoming accomplished on the bassoon and flute. He married Anne-Marguerite Ligier in 1718; the couple’s long and happy marriage resulted in two daughters and two sons, both of whom became priests and one of whom, Jean-Louis, was the author of five books and a number of translations. In 1723 Blavet moved to Paris in the entourage of Duke Charles-Eugène Lévis. Three years later he made his début at the Concert Spirituel, launching a remarkable public career. During the next quarter of a century Blavet appeared at the Concert Spirituel more frequently than any other performer, and throughout the period musicians and writers were unanimous in stating that his singing tone, pure intonation and brilliant technique set the standard in flute playing for all of Europe. On 1 October 1728 Louis XV granted to Blavet, ‘musicien ordinaire de notre très cher cousin le prince de Carignan’, a privilège général for six years to publish ‘plusieurs sonates pour la flûte traversière’, and op.1 was issued immediately, dedicated to Carignan. By 1731 Blavet had transferred his allegiance to the Count of Clermont, with whom he maintained ties for the rest of his life. An invitation to join the Prussian court, issued by Frederick the Great while still crown prince, was declined. When he added to his other duties the posts of first flute in the Musique du Roi (c1736), in the Musique de la Reine (1738) and at the Opéra (1740), Blavet’s position in Parisian musical life was unrivalled. Among those who wrote with admiration of him were Telemann, Marpurg, Quantz, Hubert Le Blanc, Serré de Rieux, Ancelet, La Borde, Daquin and Voltaire. It is likely that many of Leclair’s nine flute sonatas and his flute concerto were written for Blavet, for the two often performed together. Blavet’s sonatas, among the masterpieces of the early flute repertory, represent the successful transfer to the flute of the goûts réunis of French violin sonata style, developed by Anet, Duval, Senaillé, Leclair and others. The sonatas of op.2 show the influences of the French suite and the Corellian sonata da camera, and those of op.3 exhibit a more modern, galant style. Only one of Blavet’s flute concertos survives: it has brilliant Vivaldian outer movements flanking a pair of French gavottes serving as a slow movement. Blavet’s four stage works were written for the private theatre of the Count of Clermont’s château at Berny; Le jaloux corrigé was also given six performances at the Paris Opéra on a double bill with Rousseau’s Le devin du village. The music of the overture, arias and an accompanied recitative of this pasticcio was taken from popular Italian intermezzos; Blavet provided the secco recitatives and the divertissement (six dances and a vaudeville). His innovation was to abandon for the first time the arioso recitative that the French had used since Lully. ‘The recitative of this French intermezzo’, reported the Mercure de France, ‘is approximately in the style of Italian recitative, at least to the extent that the differences between the languages permitted it; and in spite of the almost universal bias of our nation against the Italian recitative, it did not appear that the spectators were extremely shocked by this first attempt’. The Mercure politely neglected to mention that the audience hissed. Whatever the initial reception (Blavet’s divertissement continued to be performed at the Opéra after the rest of the intermezzo had been dropped), Le jaloux corrigé and Le devin du village helped launch a new era of italianate music at the Opéra, and with it the Querelle des Bouffons. Le jaloux corrigé was also performed at Mannheim in 1754. Blavet’s interest in teaching was reflected in his op.2, in which he meticulously marked correct breathing places, and in his three Recueils de pièces, which contain pieces in all styles and at all levels of difficulty, many arranged for two flutes in a manner suitable for student and teacher to play together. Blavet’s most brilliant flute pupils were the composer and publisher Pierre-Evard Taillart and the teacher and composer Félix Rault, who succeeded Blavet at court, the Opéra and the Concert Spirituel.
Sebastian Bodinus: (b c1700; d Pforzheim, 19 March 1759). German composer. All that is known of his early life is that he came from central Germany (probably from the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha) and that in his youth he must have had some relationship to the Duke of Saxe-Altenburg. About 1718 he entered the service of the Margrave Carl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach as servant and musician. In 1723 he asked to be discharged in order to avoid being sent as oboist to the margrave’s regiment in Italy. His main instrument was the violin, and when he moved to the Württemberg court he secured the post of first violinist. By 1728, having married in the meantime, he returned to Karlsruhe as Konzertmeister and his wife was engaged as a singer. In the years that followed, Bodinus developed a close relationship with his superior, the court Kapellmeister J.M. Molter. In 1733, on the outbreak of the Polish War of Succession, the margrave disbanded the orchestra; Bodinus left, but returned to his former post in 1736. He now fulfilled the duties of Kapellmeister but did not obtain the title or the salary pertaining to it and his petitions reveal the dire poverty in which he and his family lived. After Carl Wilhelm’s death in 1738 he was again dismissed. When Molter, who had returned to Karlsruhe from Eisenach in 1742, reorganized the Baden court music in 1747, Bodinus, by then in Basle, was offered the post of Konzertmeister at a salary of 300 florins a year and payment in kind. For the fourth time Bodinus entered the service of the Baden court. He seems however to have been of unstable character, and in 1752 disappeared from Karlsruhe for reasons unknown. He subsequently received a letter of recommendation from the margrave, Carl Friedrich. At the beginning of 1754 he was in Darmstadt, where he apparently tried to get an appointment. In September 1758 he was admitted to the Buden-Durlach lunatic asylum at Pforzheim; he died there some months later. Bodinus was one of the many working musicians employed by the German courts of the 18th century. His strength lies in chamber music. He wrote not only numerous solo and trio sonatas, but also quartet sonatas, whose clear but varied structure is partly derived from Bodinus’s applications (under Molter’s influence) of the concerto form and principle to chamber music. Suite elements are also found in his chamber works. His concertos and symphonies, though less important than his chamber music, combine neat and accomplished workmanship with imaginative melodic invention. In spite of distinct galantelements Bodinus’s work belongs in style to the late Baroque period.
Rosti, Debora (Flutist)