> FORQUERAY Jupiter [KM]: Classical Reviews- June 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Jean-Baptiste Antoine FORQUERAY (1699-1782)
Jupiter: Orchestral Transcriptions and Chamber Music
Extracts from Pièces de Viole (Paris 1747)
Premier Divertissement
Deuxième Divertissement
Troisième Divertissement
Quatrième Divertissement
Charivari Agréable Simfonie
Rec: 3-5 October, 1998, St Andrew's Church, Toddington, Gloucestershire.
SIGNUM SIGCD008 [77.32]
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Prior to hearing this disc, I was mainly aware of the Charivari Agréable Simfonie (The Period-Instrument Orchestra of Oxford) from their appearances on Radio 3, but the word charivari I originally encountered as the title of a piece from Henry Cowell's Old American Country Set (to be found on an excellent Koch CD focusing on his "folklorist" rather than avant-garde side). Cowell's explanation of the term was rather like its dictionary definition (A mock serenade of discordant noises, made with kettles, tin horns, etc., designed to annoy and insult) but, both in his case and that of the current ensemble, something rather more musical transpired Maybe in this instance the agréable signifies that the noise is actually rather pleasant.

Forqueray's music predates Cowell’s by about two hundred years and this selection is arranged into four divertissements, the first three consisting of three pieces each, with five in the fourth and final group. There is a happy balance throughout between the energetic and the lugubrious but I found the second piece on the disc (La Silva) particularly affecting, with the viol sound approximating to that of an Irish lament, almost recalling O'Carolan's sublime Farewell to Music. The French origin of the music is also clearly apparent from the recurrent folk-like inflections. Many of these works were originally intended for viol and continuo but benefit from their ensemble treatment (Forqueray had also arranged these pieces for solo harpsichord). The present arrangements (for between three and seven instruments) by the ensemble's director and harpsichord player Kah-Ming Ng and violist Susanne Heinrich are generally exemplary.

The booklet notes concentrate mainly on the historical and family background (particularly the turbulent relationship between Forqueray and his father) which led to the creation of this music. They are very thorough. The recording is balanced quite forwardly which, to my mind, this suits the fairly intimate nature of much of the music. The performance is unsurprisingly authentic, given the remit of the ensemble, and playing time is very generous too. Anyone with a feeling for this genre would find it at the very least interesting and as may aficionados of, modern forays into the French heritage (Suites Françaises etc - Poulenc and Milhaud), wondering where it all originated.

Neil Horner

Kirk McElhearn had previously reviewed this disc

Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray was one of the leading proponents of the viol and one of the finest musicians of his time. He had a tumultuous relationship with his father, also a violist, who had him imprisoned because he was jealous of his son's talent. Three years after the death of Forqueray père, the son published a book of pieces he claimed were by his father, although it seems that he actually wrote them. This recording is an innovative reading of some of these works, arranged for an ensemble, rather than for viol and continuo (Forqueray also published a version of the same pieces for solo harpsichord.)

The music is gay and delightful, fitting in perfectly with the specific idiom of 18th century French music for the viol. Harmonically and technically these are demanding works, and melodically they are quite successful. This recording features an ensemble of from three to seven musicians, according to the individual movements. The results are somewhat mixed; at times, the ensemble fits well with the music, providing the lushness and depth it calls for, as in the third movement, the Chaconne, of the first Divertissement. The interweaving of the different instruments as the chaconne progresses is delightful, and gives the music a wonderful texture. The pardessus de viole, however, has a slightly astringent sound at times, and attracts a bit too much attention. The first movement of the fourth Divertissement, La Tronchin, might sound better with a smaller group of instruments. Its melody is less complex, and a solo viol would bring it out much better.

The first piece, called Jupiter, a moderate movement in the first Divertissement, has an uncanny resemblance to Michael Nyman's music in The Draughtsman's Contract. It has a repetitive melody, and a similar instrumental sound. Of course, Nyman used baroque music to influence his compositions for the film soundtrack; probably not this exact music, but this gives an idea of the tone.

The third Divertissement is the most restrained piece on this recording. Its three movements are all played nobly and gracefully, as marked, and are more introspective than the more lively dancing music of the other pieces. It is perhaps here that the ensemble sounds its best, with just four instruments, focusing more on the tone and melodies than trying to declaim a rhythm. There is a great deal of subtle orchestration, here; the choice of augmenting this piece, as compared to the original scoring for viol and harpsichord, is quite good.

Overall, this is a very interesting recording. The sound is a bit overdone at times; I would have preferred fewer instruments in some of the pieces. But the arrangements are interesting, and the music itself is delightful and melodically satisfying. For fans of 18th century French music, this recording is certainly recommended.

Kirk McElhearn



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