It is quite likely that you have never heard of François
Chauvon before. Very little is known about him; in New Grove
short paragraphs are enough to recount everything that is known. He was an
oboist by profession and a pupil of François Couperin. In his
liner-notes Tom Owens is unable to add anything to what is mentioned there.
His information about the music is useful, but unfortunately he refers to
the suites with their keys, whereas the track-list omits them. That makes it
rather hard to know exactly which suite he is referring to at any one time.
Chauvon's oeuvre is small: it comprises some vocal works, including
cantatas and divertissements
, as well as some chamber music. The
collection from which the suites on this disc are taken, was published under
the title of Tibiades
in 1717. It was dedicated to his teacher
Couperin. He specified the collection as including a "new genre of pieces
for flute, oboe, with several sonatas for violin". He didn't specify exactly
which instruments had to play which piece.
Most suites include some dances and various character pieces. The
latter were especially popular in France at the time, and Couperin included
many of them in his harpsichord suites. It is not always clear what they
refer to. Some may be musical portraits of colleagues of Chauvon, such as
Dornel (9e Suite
), or other personalities, for instance 'la
Maréchale de Villars' (4e Suite
). There are character
descriptions, like 'la Follette' which can refer either to a foolish person
or a capricious character. Other descriptions are 'les tourbillons'
(whirlwinds), 'le rouët' (spinning wheel) or a specific state of mind,
such as 'la Mélancolique'. Many titles don't appear in my dictionary;
maybe some words have fallen into disuse and can only be found in an
historical dictionary. It is not always easy to see the connection between a
description and the music either.
As Chauvon gives hardly any indication in regard to performance
practice the artists have followed the habits of the time which can be
deduced from the title pages of other publications. This means that in most
suites the various movements are allocated to different instruments,
sometimes solo, sometimes in combinations of two or three. In the 11e
which opens this disc, for instance, the prélude
played by oboe, bassoon and harpsichord. The bassoon plays mostly the bass
line, but also takes a solo role in two passages. The next movement,
allemande la St. Vallier
, is played by the violin, the following
courante la Duché
by the oboe. La Samaritaine
performed at the transverse flute, with the violin playing the basso
continuo; the harpsichord keeps silent. In the closing chaconne en
flute, violin and oboe play together, with bassoon and
harpsichord in the basso continuo. The number of instruments can also vary
within a single movement, creating a contrast between 'solo' and 'tutti'.
Three suites are allocated to a single instrument: the oboe plays the 3e
, with bassoon and harpsichord, the recorder takes the 4e
and the violin the 9e Suite
, both with the harpsichord
alone. In one movement the harpsichord plays solo, the arpégement
from the 5e Suite
The result is a very colourful bouquet of instrumental music.
Chauvon may be hardly-known, his music is well worth to be brought to our
attention. We can only be grateful to the artists for doing so, and
delivering such fine performances. Whereas Julia Wedman is still in the
early stages of her career, the others are seasoned performers. All of them
are more or less closely associated with the Canadian Tafelmusik Baroque
Orchestra. They are on the same wavelength, and they not only deliver good
performances individually, but the ensemble is also excellent.
As the title promises, these suites are jewels indeed. Anyone who
likes French baroque music will be delighted to have this disc in his
Johan van Veen