La vertuosa Compagnia de’ Musici di Roma
La Ferté 1707
Almost nothing is known about the life and musical work of the Seigneur de La Ferté. His only known work is the collection of twelve sonatas for violin and bass printed in Paris in 1707.
The darkness that surrounds the biography of this musician is illuminated by the beauty and freshness of his compositions. On the one hand, they are a fully completed expression of the french musical style of the time, but on the other hand they are a terrain of evident melodic, harmonic and above all contrapuntal experimentation.
From the title page of the volume, the printing of which appears to be very accurate, we can draw some interesting information:
PREMIER LIVRE/ DE SONATES/ POUR LE VIOLON/ ET LA BASSE/ DÉDIÉ/ A*S*A*R*/ MONSEIG.R LE DUC D’ORLEANS/ Composé/ PAR LE S.R DE LA FERTÉ/ Gravé par ROUSSEL/ A PARIS/ CHEZ L’Auteur Rue de Richelieu prés la/ Rue Neuve des Petits Champs Chez Mr. Le Camus Sellier/ vis a vis un limonadier/ AVEC PRIVILÉGE DU ROY 1707
The collection of sonatas is dedicated to Philippe Duke of Orléans, son of the famous Philippe Monsieur (and Monsieur in turn after the death of his father) brother of King Louis XIV. The dedication of the work to such an important personage implies some interesting elements, useful to contextualize this music today. Furthermore, the actual dedicatory written in his own hand by La Ferté and inserted in the volume between the title page and the first sonata of the collection – as was common in the musical prints of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries – reports:
(…) VÔTRE ALTESSE ROYALE qui m’a ispiré le dessin de ce livre et qui m’a donné le courage de l’éxécuter (…)
The Signeur de La Ferté publicly declares that he was, in writing and publishing his music, directly inspired by the Duke. This apparently insignificant detail becomes very important when it is remembered that at the court of Philippe – who in 1707, the year of publication of the sonatas, was not yet Regent of France – art and music were assiduously cultivated.
These sonatas are born, therefore, in a fertile context of free experimentation, were love for the arts and interest in the natural sciences are cultivated. It is in this environment that Etienne Loulié codifies his experimental method to measure and note the speed of musical performances by inventing the first metronome. The characteristics of this instrument, called chronometre, are described by its inventor in the volume “Elements ou principes de Musique”, printed in Paris in 1696 and dedicated to Philippe the second, who at the time was still Duc de Chartres and not yet d’Orléans.
Philippe himself was an excellent musician and composer. We find confirmation of this once again in the dedicatory of our sonatas, even if, in 1707, Philippe was engaged on the Spanish front in the grueling War of Spanish Succession, hoping to claim the throne for himself at the expense of his cousin Philippe V:
(…) dans le tems que vous donniez vos loisirs à protéger et à cultiver vous même les beaux arts, vous avez soufert les homages que plusieurs Auteurs ont rendus à VÔTRE ALTESSE ROYALE mais a present que vous êtes uniquement occupé du désir de la gloire et que soutenez par vôtre valeur les droits d’un Roi légitime (…)
It is worth remembering how sensitive Philippe was to the musical innovations coming from Italy by promoting their performance. It will therefore not be possible to ignore in the music of La Ferté some echoes of the Italian stile cantabile, which influence the writing of the instrumental pieces “a solo”.
Although the language remains typically French, it is evident how the Italian sonata for violin and continuo (the one in the style of Corelli in primis) constitutes a reference model for La Ferté, and more generally an absolute novelty in France, between the end of the seventeenth century and the early eighteenth century.
Thanks to Philippe’s musical cenacle, the first collections of French sonatas for violin and bass appeared by Rebel, Dandrieu, and later by François and Louis Francoeur, as opposed to the usual solo instruments of the Chambre du Roy: the viol and the harpsichord.
The few documents after 1707 attest that La Ferté seems to follow in the footsteps of its patron once the Duke assumed the Regency of the throne of France in 1711.
He is mentioned with his full name, Charles François Gregoire, as a violinist in the ranks of the King’s orchestra, the famous ensemble Les vingt-quatre violons du Roy which was called to play on particular occasions during the year, as can be read in the Etat de France, a real court “yearbook”, published in 1722:
(…) Cette bande de violons vient joüer pendant le dîner du Roy, principalement à trois ou quatre différens jours de l’année, comme aussi au retour du voiage de Fontainebleau et autres grands voiages. (…)
L’Etat, which was compiled by Frere Ange, an Augustinian friar, in the chapter dedicated to the “Autres officiers qui sont de la suitte et dépendance de la Chambre du Roy”, names our La Ferté among the violins of the orchestra next to all his colleagues, in the specific paragraph dedicated to the musicians employed by the court: Chevalier, Nicolas Baudy and his son Jean-Charles as substitute (“en survivance”), Goupy, Leclerc, Rebel (and François his son as substitute), Duval, Brunet, Pierre de la Lande, Lepeintre, and finally Charles François Gregoire de La Ferté.
It is interesting to note that among the solo instruments or instruments responsible for performing chamber music at court we do not find the violin, as we always read in the Etat:
(…) Les cinq joüeurs d’istrumens de la Chambre qui sont les sieurs Itier, d’Anglebert, Marais, Marchand et Philidor (…)
that is, respectively, the viola da gamba (Itier, Marais and Philidor), the harpsichord (d’Anglebert) and the “petit luthe” (Marchand). It is evident that the violin, intended as a solo instrument, was not practiced in court music, but was a field of experimentation of “Italianist” taste already in the last years of the reign of the Sun King, and in any case in environments not strictly courtiers, if still in 1722 is not found as an instrument of the King’s chamber music.
Finally, we find Charles de la Ferté cited once again at court, but as a performer of wind instruments: the mute cornetto and the serpentone, in the performances of the Chapelle Royale of the castle of Versailles.
It has not yet been possible to trace further musical productions of La Ferté, nor any further biographical information. Furthermore, the possible link between the musician and the noble family of Saint Nectaire, dukes of La Ferté – Senneterre, still needs to be investigated.
In this regard, it is possible to remember the figure of the Duchesse de la Ferté, Marie Isabelle Angélique de la Mothe-Houdancourt (Duchess of La Ferté following her marriage to Henry François, Marshal of France) thanks to whom the feste galante Vénus was represented, at the presence of Philippe d’Orléans (this time father) in 1698 with music by André Campra.
In conclusion, Charles de La Ferté’s collection of sonatas is an eloquent witness of musical experimentalism freed from the obligations of court music, entrusted to the violin that, more than all other instruments, became ambassador of the Italian musical style in France.
La Vertuosa Compagnia de' Musici di Roma
The Vertuosa Compagnia de' Musici di Roma was born, by Emanuela Pietrocini and Maurizio Lopa, in the early 2000s. It took the name from the homonymous corporation founded in Rome in 1585 and similarly has been configured since its birth as a "sodalitas" , a place of meeting and cultural exchange which over the years has given rise to collaborations with the major interpreters of the Renaissance and Baroque musical repertoire; and one of the best results of this philosophy of openness and sharing was certainly the meeting with the violinist Valerio Losito, one of the most interesting musicians in the field of Baroque music.
Alongside the purely concert activity, which saw the ensemble guest of important concert institutions, numerous collaborations of a scientific and speculative nature soon flourished with the Universities "La Sapienza" and "RomaTre", the "Università Cattolica di Milano", the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, and the Italian Association for Research on Systems.
These collaborations have resulted in articles and publications (ed. Springer, World Scientific, Il Mulino) that address the specific issues of early music, and in particular those related to the practice of improvisation and basso continuo, from a systemic and phenomenological perspective.
Recent publications include: "Phenomenology of Emergence in Music"; "Music: emergence and metastructural properties in the practice of the basso continuo"; "Music of the emergency, perspectives of systemic research in music and musicology"; "Music: creativity and transitions of structure"; "Ludus harmonicus: play and mathematics in music between improvisation and variation"; "Phenomenology of Emergence in Music".
After the first years of activity, what will be the group's peculiar and constant "vision" begins to take shape: a concert is not just a concert, music is culture, it is the expression of a society and an era, it is a story.
With "Musica per il Furioso" (Fondazione Musica per Roma - Auditorium Parco della Musica) the Vertuosa Compagnia de' Musici di Roma celebrated the 500th anniversary of the first publication of Ludovico Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso" at Villa d'Este - Tivoli.
With the event "Neither Demons nor Angels" (Ministry for Cultural Heritage) the ensemble recalled Pico della Mirandola by recounting his life and works.
The concerts at Palazzo Farnese di Caprarola (Polo Museale del Lazio, ArtCity) were an opportunity to unveil the architects' alchemical mysteries and, taking a cue from the famous Celestial Vault in the "Sala del Mappamondo", the concert evoked Kepler and his "Harmonices Mundi" : the harmony of the spheres.