Michel Pignolet de MONTÉCLAIR
(1667 - 1737)
A la guerre! - Concertos for transverse flute and
bc (arranged for trumpet and harpsichord by Antonio Frigé)
Cinquième Concert 'La guerre' [15:40]
Quatrième Concert [19:50]
Troisième Concert [22:24]
Sixième Concert [20:39]
Gabriele Cassone (natural trumpet), Antonio Frigé (harpsichord); Ensemble Pian e Forte (Luca Marzana, Jonathan Pia, Mauro Bernasconi (natural trumpet), Alberto Macchini (timpani))
rec. November 1998, Dynamic studio, Genoa, Italy. DDD
DYNAMIC DM8004 [79:07]
If the repertoire for an instrument is rather limited it is
understandable that its players would look for music to arrange.
In particular recorder players do so frequently. Trumpet players
have the same problem: in the 17th and 18th centuries the trumpet
was mostly either used in ensemble pieces, in particular marches,
and in music of a ceremonial nature, for instance settings of
the Te Deum. It wasn't an instrument that had any role in chamber
In France composers mostly offered alternative scorings for
their chamber music. The six Concerts - which have the
form of suites - by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair which were
published in 1724/25 are no exception. Although written as pieces
for the transverse flute the composer suggested performances
on the recorder, the oboe or the violin. The trumpet is not
mentioned, and that is no surprise. As far as I know the trumpet
was never mentioned as an alternative in chamber music, and
it never figured in chamber cantatas. Even Joseph Bodin de Boismortier
who composed sonatas and chamber concertos for almost any instrument
of his time, never composed music for trumpet. It isn't just
the instrument's loudness which explains this, but first and
foremost the fact that chamber music was written for members
of the bourgeoisie to play at home. And they didn't own a trumpet,
let alone were able to play it. From this perspective the decision
to play four concertos for a treble instrument and basso continuo
on the trumpet is rather odd.
Musically speaking it was a bad decision as well. For the Troisième
Concert Montéclair suggests the musette, the small bagpipe
which was very popular in France in the 17th and early 18th
centuries and was frequently used in pastoral music. The trumpet
is therefore the most unsuitable instrument to play this particular
suite. The other suites also contain many pieces in which the
use of the trumpet is inappropriate.
The fact that in the Quatrième Concert the trumpet is
not involved in half of the movements speaks for itself. How
could a trumpet play a piece like 'La Mélancolique', 'La Ténébreuse'
or a sarabande? In some movements passages with trumpet alternate
with episodes played on harpsichord alone. As a result the chaconne
In the Sixième Concert 'La Paix' the trumpet is obviously
not involved in a movement like 'Sommeil' (sleep), but it does
play in movements where it would have been better to be silent,
like 'musette', referring to the pastoral instrument mentioned
above. The same suite also contains a movement called 'Carillon
du Moutier'. Here the treble instrument should imitate the carillon,
but the trumpet lacks the subtlety to do so convincingly.
It is just one example of imitation - a genre which was much
loved in the baroque era. Many pieces were written to imitate
animals, instruments, human characters or everyday phenomena.
On the one hand it was a challenge for a composer to suggest,
for instance, the sound of the trumpet with a violin or a flute.
On the other hand it appealed to the imagination of the players
and the listeners to hear the 'real thing'. One would expect
the Cinquième Concert 'La guerre', which is programme
music of sorts, to come off best. That is indeed the case, but
even here some pieces are unsuitable for the trumpet and played
with harpsichord alone, like the 'Concert sous le tente du General'
(concert in the general's tent) and the sarabande. It was the
composer's aim to evoke the picture of a battle with the use
of an intimate instrument. By using the trumpet instead everything
is spelled out and nothing is left to the imagination. This
is a vulgarisation of what the composer had in mind.
The playing of Gabriele Cassone is excellent, and worthy of
a better cause. I am less impressed by Antonio Frigé's harpsichord
playing which is often lacklustre and bland. The contributions
of the three additional trumpets and the timpani is reduced
to some movements of the Cinquième Concert.
One can understand the desire of a trumpet player to perform
solo music, but arranging Montéclair's flute music for the trumpet
was not a good idea.
Johan van Veen