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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

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Volume 20 (2014) No. 1

Published 2017

Jean Henry D’Anglebert. The Collected Works. Edited by C. David Harris. The Art of the Keyboard 7. New York: The Broude Trust, 2009. [2 Volumes: xxiii+218, xii+245. ISBN 0-8450-7670-1. $100; paperbound.]

Reviewed by David Ledbetter*

1. Introduction

2. Lineage of D’Anglebert Editions

3. The Harris Edition

Examples

References

1. Introduction

1.1 D’Anglebert is not usually the first to appeal to budding enthusiasts for French harpsichord music. The mannered excitements and lush sonorities of Louis Couperin are more likely to fire them. Yet he assuredly is the one to whom they ultimately progress. It would not be too much to say that D’Anglebert is the greatest of harpsichord composers (if such a statement can have any meaning) in the sense that his music grows from the pure spirit of the harpsichord and depends utterly on the instrument for its effect. He represents in keyboard music the aesthetic of the age of Racine in which great and deep things are said with essentially simple means. His Pieces de clavecin of 1689 is a monument to a school and a generation of harpsichordists, ending with his Tombeau de Mr de Chambonnieres.[1]

2. Lineage of D’Anglebert Editions

2.1 D’Anglebert’s essential quality has long been recognised. Auguste Dupont, professor of piano at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels, published around 1885 a collection of Clavecinistes français including the D-major Chaconne Rondeau from the Pieces, with the comment: “Cette interessante Pièce ne renferme pas de sérieuses difficultés de mécanisme, mais elle exige de la part de son interprète un sentiment à la fois très fin et très profond.”[2] The difficulties of representing this piece for pianists, with fully realized ornaments and lavish dynamics, not to mention tempo changes, led Dupont to include in smaller type a version of the original notation, somewhat simplified in the manner of Saint-Saëns’s edition of Rameau’s keyboard works. This points to the fundamental principle that must be behind any edition. D’Anglebert included on his title page the phrase: “Avec la maniere de les Joüer.” His notation is the most sophisticated and exact in seventeenth-century harpsichord music and cannot be replaced.

2.2 Louise Farrenc realised this and published in 1871 what would now be considered an Urtext of the harpsichord items of the Pieces, keeping closely to D’Anglebert’s notation (though modernizing the clefs) and giving his table of ornaments as a guide.[3] She nonetheless omitted the Preludes, the pieces derived from Lully, and “quelques Vaudeviles” that D’Anglebert used to “fill out the page.”[4] It is perhaps odd that, in the series of new editions of clavecinistes that appeared in Paris from the 1920s on, D’Anglebert was not edited by Paul Brunold, advocate of historical harpsichords which one would think are indispensable for D’Anglebert, but by another woman composer/pianist, Marguerite Roesgen-Champion, exponent of the type of Pleyel harpsichord associated with Landowska.[5] It may be that Roesgen-Champion’s interest in novel forms of notation led her to D’Anglebert. Her edition was made in the same spirit as Madame Farrenc’s, though with all the harpsichord pieces of 1689. At the instigation of André Tessier she also included the pieces explicitly attributed to D’Anglebert in the manuscript F-Pn Rés. 89ter (ca. 1675–80).

2.3 Most of the works were now edited, and D’Anglebert’s stature was fully recognised by such influential figures as Willi Apel and Thurston Dart. Meanwhile the main hand in Rés.89ter had long been suspected to be D’Anglebert’s own when Kenneth Gilbert, in preparing his 1975 edition for Heugel, made a positive identification based on a comparison of various legal and other documents, the identification subsequently confirmed by Bruce Gustafson.[6] Some have cast doubt since then, but David Harris now again confirms the identification on the basis of “forensic handwriting analysis.” However sceptical one may be about “forensic” magic, the percentage of probability in this case is so high as to amount to virtual certainty.[7] Gilbert accordingly included those items in Rés.89ter in D’Anglebert’s hand that were not in the Pieces. His edition has been reprinted numerous times with corrections.

2.4 Gilbert’s edition was criticized at the time for his reordering of the works. Where D’Anglebert in the Pieces had four large key groups, including his arrangements of orchestral items and “airs” from Lully’s stage works, Gilbert separated the Lully from the D’Anglebert pieces, in accordance with a Germanic concept of the “suite” as a set progression of pieces by a single composer. The French concept of “Pièces” was looser, however, and the reordering obscures possible connections intended by D’Anglebert. A common pairing of movements in the repertoire generally is of two sarabandes, one of rhythmic-chordal type in a low tessitura, the other lighter, more “air”-like, with a right-hand melody. The G-minor pieces have such a pairing in a Sarabande by D’Anglebert followed by the air “Dieu des enfers” from Lully’s La Naissance de Vénus, a juxtaposition inevitably lost in reordering. The reordering was part of Gilbert’s policy to arrange things in the most useful way for modern performers (part of the editorial policy of the Le Pupitre series). Roesgen-Champion had been adversely criticized for keeping D’Anglebert’s system of renvois and segni for repeats, as confusing for performers.[8] Gilbert used the modern system of double bars with repeat marks, and first- and second-ending bars. Unfortunately with such decisions, one gain often brings another loss, and a feature of Gilbert’s edition is a heavy double bar with repeat marks in the middle of initial long triple time bars (3/2 or 6/8), giving a strong rhythmic implication where no bar line appeared in the original.

2.5 Otherwise, Gilbert’s editing was exemplary, as one would expect. In accordance with the performing-edition focus, editorial decisions are not visible in the text, but he managed to include an ingenious and concise notation of them in a brief critical commentary. One great advantage Gilbert had was the elegant gravure of H.G. Poiffay, which provides a true modern equivalent to the elegance of D’Anglebert’s engravers, Gillet and Bonneuil. While Broude’s computer setting for Harris’s edition is fine, it cannot convey the more fluid ductus of the hand.

3. The Harris Edition

3.1 This new edition is welcome on several grounds. It restores the ordering of items in the Pieces and Rés. 89ter; it keeps to the original notes and notation as much as possible, where Gilbert tended to be more interfering; and it adds a total of nine new pieces from manuscript sources, three of which are in D’Anglebert’s hand. Changes such as this now make it possible to assemble a C-major group of original D’Anglebert pieces from Prélude to Chaconne. In addition, Harris provides three substantial essays: on D’Anglebert himself, on his works for keyboard, and on their performance. These essays thoroughly survey previous research with measured and fair assessments, they make numerous corrections and refinements, and they add greatly to our knowledge. There are also facsimiles and transcripts of crucial documents. In addition, Harris provides editions of variant versions of some pieces that exhibit significant differences, particularly important where they stem directly from the composer himself.[9] The two-volume format, with primary versions of pieces in Part 1 and other versions (plus the essays, critical commentary, and appendices) in Part 2, allows for easy comparison, though one has to remember, of course, that one is comparing editions, not originals. These are nonetheless invaluable for performers. Harris has thus provided a prime resource for the study and performance of D’Anglebert, from which all future work must proceed.

3.2 Given the situation where there are only two substantial principal sources—one a very carefully prepared edition, the other an autograph manuscript—the problems of editing are by no means as great as for Louis Couperin, for whose harpsichord works we have almost exclusively secondary sources. Editorial decisions will nonetheless always give rise to debate, and it is in that spirit that the following comments are offered. This is a critical edition, so there must be some editorial scaffolding, otherwise people could just as well play from one of the available facsimiles.[10] The editing is done with great care, and it is considerably more literal in small ways than Gilbert’s, but I wonder if the scaffolding is sometimes intrusive. Where Gilbert makes an obvious correction silently in the musical text, with a note in his critical commentary, Harris places a footnote number in the text, a footnote at the bottom of the page, and an entry in the commentary.[11] More problematic are cautionary accidentals and editorial prolongation dots, enclosed in round brackets. This can look confusing in that D’Anglebert’s sign for a cheute ou port de voix is a comma before a note head, and for a pincé a comma after the note head, with the result that the combination of cheute et pincé looks like a note head enclosed in brackets. Distinguishing these three ornament signs demands constant vigilance on the part of the player, without further bracketed symbols.

3.3 D’Anglebert’s system of ornaments, far from serving merely to prolong the sound of the harpsichord, as proposed by Fétis and repeated by Roesgen-Champion, is a vital part of his musical language. His table of “Marques des Agrements et leur signification” is the most sophisticated from the seventeenth century and may be one reason why pieces were still being reprinted in 1776.[12] Since D’Anglebert has gone to so much trouble, maintaining the level of detail he provided is all-important. In the preludes of the Pieces the original engravers used two signs for the tremblement simple, one with two waves (as in the “Marques”) and one with three waves (not in the “Marques”). This does not seem accidental since the three-wave trills are generally in places where there is a termination or where some emphasis seems appropriate. Harris, following the “Marques,” gives only the two-wave version. Colin Tilney, in his indispensable study-pack for the unmeasured prelude, gives only the three-wave version; Gilbert has both, following the original print exactly.[13]

3.4 Of far greater importance is the sign for the tremblement appuyé, which in the “Marques” is the ordinary trill sign plus a straight left ascender. But the musical text also has a rotated version, a trill sign with a right descender (Example 1). Gilbert apparently assumed that the engraver just used the same punch upside down, and in his edition he silently converted all the rotated ones into the “Marques” version. This assumption was questioned by Douglas Maple who, after close examination of the print, showed that the engravers did not use a punch but drew these ornaments by hand.[14] He therefore suggested that the rotated version is intentional and could imply the stopping point (point d’arèst) in a trill, as described by François Couperin in L’Art de toucher le clavecin.[15] Maple’s argument was that since the left ascender indicated a lengthened first note of the trill, so the right descender would indicate a lengthened final note. In light of this, Harris has followed the print exactly, as did Roesgen-Champion. This is no small matter. If Harris is right, then he deserves our thanks and praise; if he is wrong, then a wrong ornament appears on virtually every page of his edition of the Pieces. I regret to say that I am sceptical of Maple’s theory. Several factors have not been mentioned in the argument so far. D’Anglebert’s system of commas for the cheute and pincé is a symptom of his interest in lute music, where performance signs (other than rhythm) are immediately beside the note (tablature symbol) they affect. D’Anglebert has kept to this principle in all his ornaments in the Pieces (Bonneuil had been the engraver of Jacques Gallot’s Pieces de luth in the early 1680s).[16] The rotated version of this ornament appears exclusively beneath the note head, the “Marques” version exclusively above. The rotated version is very close to the note head, and I suspect that the engraver drew the sign upside down in order to avoid the ascender colliding inelegantly with it. Roesgen-Champion generally preserved the placing of the rotated sign near the note, but Harris mostly has it above the stave, at a distance from the note affected, and therefore giving a very different impression. Some light might be shed by the placing of the cadence (with curved left ascender) and autre [cadence] (with curved left descender). If the cadence appears beneath a note head, is it rotated too? Unfortunately there is not a single instance of this placing, and when the autre [cadence] is above, the curved descender wraps itself elegantly around the note head in a way that a straight one could not (Example 2). David Chung has suggested that Harris might add a comment to the “Marques” at the beginning of his first volume, giving his interpretation of the rotated sign, rather than supplying this information only in the middle of a substantial essay on ornamentation in the second volume.[17] As Maple’s interpretation of the rotated sign is speculative, and there is as yet no definite answer to this problem, the debate will continue.

3.5 In such a mass of material there are inevitably some details one could quibble with, but the standard of accuracy is high, betokening the care and thoroughness that have gone into the edition and ancillary matter. One thing that does need correction, however, is a mistranslation of D’Anglebert’s instruction in the Principes de l’accompagnement relating to exercises for “Le triton”: “Il faut la pratiquer sur tous les tons cy apres.” Harris has “It is essential to practice it similarly on all of the [scale] degrees”; rather: “It should be practiced on all the following degrees,” since D’Anglebert then gives the exercise on D, F, G, A, and B-flat. No doubt practice on all degrees of the chromatic octave would be beneficial, but it is not what D’Anglebert meant (his keys do not go beyond three sharps).

3.6 D’Anglebert is now handsomely provided for. We have not only Gilbert’s performer’s edition and a lavish provision of facsimiles, but also a worthy monumental critical edition, combined, in the essays and pièces annexes, with a substantial monograph on all aspects of D’Anglebert’s life and works. Harris’s edition will be the standard and foundation for all future research.

Examples

Example 1. “Marques” and rotated versions of the tremblement appuyé

Example 2. “Marques” version of autre [cadence] from “Marques des agrements et leur signification”

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