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La Belle Vielleuse - The virtuoso hurdy gurdy in 18th Century France
Monika Mauch (soprano)
Ensemble Danguy (Ellie Nimeroski (violin); Caroline Ritchie (bass viol, cello); Marc Meisel (harpsichord); Esteban La Rotta (theorbo))/Tobie Miller (vielle à roue (hurdy-gurdy, direction)
rec. Beuggen, Schloßkirche, June 2016
RICERCAR RIC382 [76:17]

At the centre of this collection is the hurdy-gurdy. The hurdy-gurdy or Vielle is, so far as this project is concerned, a lap-held instrument the size of a viola which produces sounds, part keyboard and part bowed instrument. Its reediness is combined with the ability to produce a steady legato as well as a tripping staccato. Its cornemuse (bagpipe) quality is distinctive, tending to roughened nasal thinness. However, when producing a legato melody - as in the Pièces de caractère by Dupuits, himself a virtuoso of the instrument - the effect can be very engaging. There's a rustic element too which is very appealing. You can see why - as the vielle fell out of fashion more widely - it became a discovery among the aristocracy.

This disc's selection of pieces are of the French Court at the time of Madame de Pompadour. It concentrates on the vielle (hurdy-gurdy) either alone or with other instruments. There are two cantatas: Saint-Philibert's La Vielle and Dupuits' Le Bouquet. In both of these Monika Mauch's bell-clear soprano joins the central star, the vielle player, Tobie Miller, and the ensemble. These are short pieces each in small movements. The music and the words (printed in the booklet in the sung French and in English and German translation) feel ideally matched. Comely works these, and the at times country manners of the vielle contrast productively with the lofty sweetness of Mauch's voice.

Daquin's flighty Musette is followed by Ravet's lively sauntering Sonate III. The Ravet is more airy and magical in the Sonate II for vielle and violin. Its Affectueusement movement is a lovely piece in which the vielle is far distant from shepherds and countryside musings. Its vitality especially in the Tambourin vite, in which keyboard clicks are more to the fore, has the sense of grand surroundings. While more stately and deliberately paced, Corrette's La Furstemberg is also strong on the sense of courtly dance, as is Charles Baton's Sonate IV with its concluding two movements rasping with burly and breathily danced confidence.

Rameau's Musette en Rondeau is all dignified, slow-trilling contemplation and the mood carries over into the Largo of the Dupuits Sonate VI. This offers a nice variety of takes on the inward grace and exuberant display of which this charming instrument was and remains capable.

Tobie Miller who is the star of this collection also provides an extended written piece about the vielle and its place in those times and places. The instrument is given an apt and not absurd prominence in what is an equable sound mix.

In furnishing a show-case for the hurdy-gurdy of eighteenth century France Ricercar dust off works by composers known only to true specialists. All in all this is a generously populated disc to delight the hearts of those who love eighteenth century musical arcana. The only names that rang any bells with me were those of Michel Corrette, Louis-Claude Daquin and Jean-Philippe Rameau; the latter group being very briefly represented.

This disc goes to show that such projects are not the sole province of Amon Ra and Saydisc who also do these things well. This could so easily have been something of a trying museum piece but intelligent selection, variation of instrumentation and wise artistic interpretive choices have not only avoided that but made this disc something of a triumph.

Rob Barnett

Christophe Le Menu De SAINT-PHILIBERT (fl.1742)
1 La vièle: Air lent "Quels sons brillans" [2:48]
2 La vièle: Récitatif "Que vois-je !" [1:06]
3 La vièle: Air "Vièle aimable" [2:41]
Jean-Baptiste DUPUITS (fl.1741)
Pièces de Caractère
4 La dupuits: Première partie (Prélude) [2:34]
5 La dupuits: Seconde partie en rondeau [2:35]
6 La dupuits: Troisième partie (Sarabande en rondeau) [2:49]
7 La dupuits: Troisième partie (Premier menuet en rondeau - Second menuet) [3:27]
8 La dupuits: Quatrième partie (Légerement et animé) [3:02]
Louis-Claude DAQUIN (1694-1772)
9 Musette en rondeau [1:10]
Monsieur RAVET (fl.1750)
10 IIIe sonate: Vivement et marqué [2:13]
11 IIIe sonate: Rondeau - [2e rondeau [3:21]
12 IIIe sonate: Menuet - [2e menuet - Tambourin [1:53]
13 IIe duo de vielle et violon: Affectueusement [4:14]
14 IIe duo de vielle et violon: Badine (Gayment sans vitesse - Vivement) [2:36]
15 IIe duo de vielle et violon: Tambourin vite - 2e tambourin [1:40]
Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795)
16 La Furstemberg [2:37]
17 Le bouquet: Prélude [Air] "Écoute mes tristes soupirs" (Lentement) [1:45]
18 Le bouquet: Air "Emprunte à ce berger" (Doucement et piqué) [0:58]
19 Le bouquet: Récitatif "C'etoit dans des jardins charmans" [0:58]
20 Le bouquet: Air "Volés zéphirs" (Gayement) [3:49]
21 Le bouquet: Récitatif "Mais, qui puis-je charger du bouquet que j'apreste ?" [0:38]
22 Le bouquet: Air "Partés aimable tourterelle" (Tendrement) [3:45]
Charles BÂTON (fl.1750)
23 Sonate IV: Gracieusement [1:45]
24 Sonate IV: Moderement [2:26]
25 Sonate IV: Gigue [2:16]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
26 Musette en rondeau [2:23]
27 Sonate VI: Largo [2:49]
28 Sonate VI: Allegro en rondeau [4:42]
29 Sonate VI: Premier tambourin - [2e tambourin [2:15]
30 Sonate VI: Caprice alla capella [4:45]



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