Posts tagged ‘harpsichord’

August 26, 2018

Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer – “Vertigo” from “Premiere livre de pièces pour clavecin”

by ada

Just a quick reminder that I’m still living (unfortunately not the time of my life, but what is life anyway) – and with the second-hand spinet I bought a few months ago to restore, also came the immediate urge to ask myself useless questions like 1) why didn’t I bought an original 18th-century two-manual French harpsichord instead* and 2) what did I do to my life and why.

The newest source of my unhappiness is this really cool harpsichord piece which I’m unable to play on my spinet because it does not have all the keys needed!** composed by Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer, another great Italian-born French composer (do you still remember the First? The Greatest? The one and only Giovanni Battista Lolli?), who was held in high regard by Louis XV and was also good friends with Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville, the sexiest composer ever.

Who cares that Charles Burney found his music boring? I definitely don’t.

* guess why. Just guess. Will you buy one for me if I set up a Donate button? As a thank-you I am willing to continue this blog with the present speed of one post every three months. Me thinks it’s a good deal.

** I didn’t open the spinet in two months because I don’t have the time (what did I do to my life and why?), but what I can already tell for sure is that the times when I still could tell the difference between the temperaments Werckmeister II and III are, alas, over***

*** but now I totally can tell you the difference between the second-degree atrioventricular block types Mobitz I and II!

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April 21, 2014

music for Easter Monday – Jacques Champion de Chambonnières: Paschalia

by ada

For Easter Monday I chose a short (not even 2 minutes long) dance movement by one of the best French harpsichord players of the 17th century, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières. He served at the court of both Louis XIII and his son, Louis XIV, and among his pupils were Louis, Charles and François Couperin and Jean-Henri d’Anglebert. Although he was a very skilled musician who was held in high regard by his contemporaries, he also had his shortcomings that costed him his career: he couldn’t play the figured bass well enough to accompany the operas of Lully. And, as you might remember from yesterday’s post, Lully was a very influential man in the court of the Sun King (actually, he ruled the whole  17th century French music life. And he ruled it with a firm hand). So Chambonnières lost the game and had to go. He died a poor man, leaving exactly 142 small dance movements behind as a musical legacy. He published two collections of them during his lifetime, but some of them, as this short Paschalia, exist still only in manuscript.

What I love about this short piece of music is that it is like a dream within a dream: it has a hidden passacaille towards its end that, despite of being only 9 bars long (whole fifteen seconds in this recording), is a complete, perfect little piece in itself.

Because that’s how easy I am to please. You can buy my heart with fifteen seconds of ostinato.

April 4, 2012

365/95

by ada

Well, I guess, today’s music sort of fails to match my own criteria, because no one would dare to call the French composer François Couperin, court organist, composer and harpsichord teacher of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, a musician of small importance. He wrote a number of virtuoso and charming harpsichord pieces and some other amazing instrumental and vocal music, and his harpsichord tutorial, L’art de toucher le clavecin, published in 1716,  is really worth reading. This very piece of his, Troisième Leçon de Ténèbres pour deux voix, originally written for the Wednesday evening liturgy before Maundy Thursday, was even featured in the movie Tous les matins du monde, with Gérard Depardieu starring in the role of the old Marin Marais. Composing Leçons de ténèbres (Lectures of the Darkness) upon the text of the Lamentations of Jeremiah for the late night services of the three holy days before Easter was a huge trend in the late 17th – mid 18th century French music, and it resulted some really moving compositions. This version of Couperin is one of the most beautiful pieces of baroque vocal music I know (and well, I do know a bit about baroque music, hm).

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