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Hyperion Records

CKD341 - The Nightingale and the Butterfly

Recording details: March 2009
National Centre for Early Music, York, United Kingdom
Produced by Philip Hobbs
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: June 2010
Total duration: 76 minutes 8 seconds

'Virtuoso playing and scholarly research come together in this disc of French Baroque works, ranging from arcane suites (edited specifically for this recording) by Charles Dieupart, Anne-Danican Philidor and Louis Caix d'Hervelos (whose 'Papillon' evokes the fluttering wings of a butterfly), to François Couperin's celebrated imitations of a lovelorn nightingale. Pamela Thorby's eclectic experience in Baroque, jazz and folk music is everywhere apparent in these performances, with their combination of technical precision and improvisatory flair. Exploiting the tonal range of a battery of recorders, from the perky sopranino to the tenor ‘voice-flute', Thorby delightfully evokes the birds and butterflies of this pastoral idyll, and capers through the dance movements with fleet fingerwork. She is superbly partnered by Elizabeth Kenny, who plays archlute, theorbo and Baroque guitar, valiantly coping with the role more commonly realised by the harpsichord. Kenny also takes centre stage for solo works by Robert de Visée, whose sublimely melancholy music would soothe the Sun King to sleep at night … a disc full of delights and surprises' (BBC Music Magazine)

'The title of this disc is derived from three of the French baroque pieces included on it, the fourth movement ('Papillon') of the Deuxième suite in G by Louis Caix d'Hervelois and François Couperin's Le Rossignol-en-amour and Le Rossignol Vainqueur and is appropriate for a collection of sometimes lightweight but always charming pieces … Elizabeth Kenny's sensitive plucked accompaniment balances the recorder very well' (Early Music Review) » More

'Recorder virtuoso Pamela Thorby's soft, sweet, natural tone is ideally suited to the whimsical delicacies of d'Hervelois, Philidor and Dieupart. The birds and butterflies of French Baroque music are artful accomplices to Eros and Morpheus, and genial companions for summer evenings. Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny introduces a deeper melancholy in her twilit performance of de Visée's Passacaille' (The Independent on Sunday)

The Nightingale and the Butterfly
Prélude  [1'35]
Allemande  [2'22]
Musette  [1'33]
Papillon  [1'40]
La Lionnoise  [2'37]
La Fanatique  [0'50]
Air  [3'15]
Lentement  [2'44]
Fugue  [1'22]
Courante  [1'37]
Fugue  [1'50]
Ouverture  [5'38]
Allemande  [3'27]
Courante  [1'30]
Sarabande  [2'20]
Gavotte  [0'43]
Menuet  [0'57]
Gigue  [1'51]
Prélude  [1'33]
Courante  [1'51]
Sarabande  [3'15]
Gigue  [1'01]
Contredanse  [1'27]
Ouverture  [4'24]
Allemande  [2'36]
Courante  [1'20]
Sarabande  [2'37]
Gavotte  [0'45]
Menuet  [1'03]
Gigue  [1'23]

Pamela Thorby teams up with renowned lutenist Elizabeth Kenny for her fourth solo album on Linn, a sparkling exploration of French Baroque music.

Introduction  EnglishPerformance note
Charles Dieupart’s influential and widely distributed Six suittes de clavecin, dedicated to the Countess of Sandwich, were published a couple of years before his emigration to England. The first edition in 1701 for keyboard solo and the 1702 edition in which he specified before each suite the type of recorder that was to be used: voice flute in the first four and a fourth flute in the final two. Dieupart’s ordering of dance movements (ouverture, allemande, courante, sarabande, gavotte, menuet and gigue) with the use of an overture to begin each suite, had yet to be seen in French harpsichord music of this period. Johann Sebastian Bach copied the first and sixth suites in order to study them in more detail and elements of the A major suite are recognizable in Bach’s first English Suite.

Dieupart enjoyed considerable success in England as a composer and player alongside fellow émigrés such as Paisible, Loeillet de Gant, Pepusch, Visconti and Haym. He fell foul of the overwhelming fashion for all things Handelian and as his fortunes waned he taught, organised concerts and played harpsichord in Handel’s orchestra. Hawkins reported that before his death ‘he grew negligent, and frequented concerts performed in ale-houses, in obscure parts of the town, and distinguished himself not [less] there, than he would have done in an assembly of the best judges, by his neat and elegant manner of playing the solos of Corelli’.

Anne-Danican Philidor came from a distinguished family of musicians. Son of the more famous André Danican Philidor l’aîné, Anne was a composer, instrumentalist and entrepreneur who founded the Concert Spirituel (1725) and Concerts Français (1727), both successful business endeavours he took on towards the end of his life. Earlier, he was primarily employed at Court, where he inherited his father’s position in Les Grands Hautbois and was a member of Les Petits Violons.

The ‘Sonate pour la flûte à bec’ in D minor comes from his first book of pieces, the title page of which mentions the transverse flute, recorder, violin and oboe with basso continuo (published in Paris, 1712). This sonata actually specifies performance on the recorder. If any French recorder work can be considered comparable in quality to those of Handel or Barsanti, Philidor’s sonata achieves that whilst maintaining an essential French character.

Louis Caix d'Hervelois was a viola da gambist who is thought to have been a pupil of Marin Marais. His relationship to the French de Caix family of viol players is tentative, but his abilities were not. If his eight books of pieces for the viol and pardessus de viole are any indication, he was an excellent player of both instruments.

Alongside his works for the viol, Caix d’Hervelois published two books of suites for the transverse flute, the latter (Deuxième recueil, Paris, 1731) containing the Suite in G major. Its movements reflect traditional dance types, while some are given descriptive titles. Papillon (‘butterfly’) is written as a spirited gavotte with the melody part imitating the fluttering of the butterfly’s wings. La Lionnoise is a sultry Gravement, perhaps referring to Lyons, the city where some of Caix d’Hervelois’ late works were published. La Fanatique, an energetic gigue, only hints at who or what ‘the fanatic’ might have been.

François Couperin was the most famous French Baroque composer to write for the harpsichord. His works also included sacred and secular vocal music, as well as a substantial amount of instrumental chamber music. His pieces for solo harpsichord (the four livres, or books, made up of 27 ordres, and L’art de toucher le clavecin) are monumental in their scope of musical invention, their originality and their ingenuity. They run the gamut of expression and challenge the performer as few others do.

Le Rossignol en amour and Le Rossignol vainqueur come from Couperin’s fourteenth ordre, a set of movements with titles relating to birds. The rossignol, or nightingale, is a bird historically associated with love and romance. Couperin first depicts the nightingale in love through a slow, beautiful melody which he indicates should be played very tenderly. He repeats the movement in the form of a double, or ornamented version, which heightens its character. In a footnote, Couperin suggests that the upper part may be entrusted to a flute, giving the movement a more bird-like character and sonority. In the other movement, Le Rossignol vainqueur, as the title suggests, the nightingale is victorious in love. Its upbeat mood is realised in the form of a gigue.

Like many musicians working at the French Court, Robert de Visée was a multifaceted instrumentalist, composer and teacher. He is most recognized as a guitarist and theorbist who published two books of music for the guitar and one for the theorbo and lute. His business at court included being part of the continuo group for productions of operas and opera-ballets by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Some of the more dramatic dances and ouvertures, such as this one, made their way into his repertoire as solo pieces, useful for the occasions on which he was commanded to perform late at night in Louis XIV’s bedchamber.

Bernard Gordillo © 2010

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