Joseph Bodin de BOISMORTIER (1689 -
Ballets de Village
Le Concert Spirituel
Le Concert Spirituel/Niquet
Recorded Paris. 8 - 10 Sept
Naxos 8.554295 [74'45".]
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Images of foggy London streets of the late eighteen hundreds usually follow
any use of the word hurdy-gurdy - used in its wrong sense of a barrel-organ,
that is. On this CD of French music of the 1730's the true instrument but
under its proper name of vielle à roue is heard along with a musette
and an ensemble of violins, oboes, flutes, recorders, cellos, bass, bassoon,
harpsichord and organ. The true hurdy-gurdy we hear is a string instrument
with a cranked wheel providing a substitute bowing action. All the strings
resonate at once and give a bagpipe-like drone. The musette was nearer to
a bagpipe and its drone was bellows driven. Both of these now almost unknown
instruments had long histories and even after centuries of considerable hi-tech
refinement for the age were difficult to play and articulate properly. They
were generally regarded as for the rustics, even though people like Rameau
and Lully used them in their operas and, in the case of the vielle, in an
instrumental repertoire that included duos and concertos.
The music itself here is by Boismortier, a man who did well from writing
and publishing popular, unchallenging music that appealed to his potential
public but made so much money from doing so that inevitably his rivals became
jealous at just how easy he seemed to find it. It certainly still has an
appeal. There is much to tap the feet to and to enjoy from a set of pieces
with an undoubted rusticity to them yet with enough sophistication to interest
the better off of the time who could read music, and more importantly from
the composers viewpoint, could afford to buy it.
Boismortier's four Ballets de Village - there is no ballet element
in them at all - are in sections and each of them allows the members of the
group to have his turn to shine. A reminder here of Jazz Sunday evenings
in Liverpool's Picton Hall of the 50's when convention and tradition decreed
that everyone had a solo - even the double-bass player - to everyone's delight.
All great fun and the enjoyment comes over on the disc. Le Concert Spirituel
- on modern instruments - is a first class ensemble and a good, clear, close
recording makes a good combination.
The three movement Cinquième gentillesse - two quick, one
slow - shows the very distinctive sounds the musette and vielle make and
their value in an ensemble. The parts were written into the original score,
not added on one of today's whims. The other long work on the recording along
with the Four Ballets is the Première Sérénade
written in eighteen sections. These are mainly dances - Gavotte, Sarabande,
Gigue are included. In the brief movements one noted some excellent harpsichord
support in Air gracieux, a rapid fire Rigaudon (with some fine
wind playing), a charming Sarabande for recorders and bass, bassoon
and oboe in a lively Gigue.
I thoroughly enjoyed this disc. Music fresh to me, very well played, nothing
too intellectual to cause sleepless nights and all without leaving the house.
Can't be bad.