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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 5 (1999) No. 1

Charles (?) Hurel, Tablature de luth et de théorbe (ca. 1675): Ms PLM 17524 BDG, The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. Preface by François Lesure. Geneva: Minkoff, 1996. [(iii), 64 folios. ISBN 2-8266-0905-X. FS 105 ($73).]

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Les Pièces de clavessin, premier livre. Introduction by Carol Bates. Geneva: Minkoff, 1996. [(8), 77 pp. ISBN 2-8266-0503-8. FS 105 ($73).]

Manuscrit Bauyn (ca. 1690): Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France Ms. Rés 674–675. Second Edition. Preface by Davitt Moroney. Geneva: Minkoff, 1998. [49, 406 pp. ISBN 2-8266-0652-2. FS 250 ($170).]

Reviewed by David Ledbetter*

1. Hurel

2. Jacquet

3. Bauyn


1. Hurel

1.1 French Baroque lute music has never made the concert platform in the way the keyboard music has. The instrument is too quiet, the style too subtle, and it takes players to appreciate it. Germain Pinel, the nearest lute equivalent to Louis Couperin, must surely be one of the most underrated composers of the seventeenth century, if recording catalogues are anything to go by. The theorbo in a way stands a better chance since it is a kind of musical version of the Baroque guitar, with a similar re-entrant tuning but a solidly furnished bass. Robert de Visée was the classic virtuoso of both instruments. Recently good recordings of Visée have been made by Pascal Monteilhet and especially Juan Miguel Moreno, using the small solo theorbo. There is plenty more to explore.

1.2 Hurel is certainly on a par with Visée, if not with Pinel. This is the principal source of his works (there are not many concordances elsewhere), containing thirty-four pieces divided into five key groups. Apart from the dances usual in the solo suite and three settings of pieces by Lully, the most interesting items are seven semi-measured preludes and a richly harmonized chaconne en rondeau. There is nothing unusual about the sequence of pieces, but they do provide further examples of findings in the lute repertory generally, such as the pairing of sarabande types: a grave, low-tessitura, chordal type paired with a much lighter, melodic type with a well profiled melody in a vocal tessitura. This pairing is important and is sometimes obscured by editors, such as Kenneth Gilbert in his D'Anglebert edition (Paris: Heugel, 1975) in separating Lully transcriptions from original harpsichord pieces. Hurel Nos. 28 & 29 are just such a pair, No. 29 being notable for high positions on the third course (the highest in pitch). One of the preludes (No. 31) has a measured middle section in duple time, seemingly rare at this date, but an interesting comparison with Élizabeth Jacquet's 1687 book (see below).

1.3 The facsimile is dated 1996, although it has been advertised in Minkoff's catalogue for a number of years. Various aspects of the title indicate that the editorial work was done some time ago, and in the case of both this and the Jacquet facsimile it is a pity that the editors do not seem to have been given the chance to update their commentaries.

1.4 There is now no need for the question mark appended to Charles Hurel's name. He is sometimes confused with Charles Hurel the distinguished instrument maker (d. 1660), despite the fact that known dates concerning the player range from the early 1660s to 1692.(note 1) A recently discovered document of 7 April 1676 has the signatures of several members of the family including Charles Hurel, described as "joueur de luth."(note 2) The preface to the facsimile gives no information about paper or handwriting, but there are clearly two hands in the manuscript: an assured and flowing professional hand for the tablature and most of the titles, and a more tentative, copy-book hand for some titles, probably that of Mlle Duport de la Balme, for whom the manuscript was compiled. The professional hand is identical to that of Charles Hurel.

1.5 The tablature is for theorbo in the standard theorbo tuning: a e b g d A etc.; it contains no lute repertory. The preface's bibliography lists only Jeannette Holland's two articles, which confuse lute and theorbo, and not Hans Radke's reply, which corrects this.(note 3) The library abbreviation should be PML, and the class number is now Ms.E.34.B. The concordance lists provided by Claude Chauvel and François-Pierre Goy are accurate and up to date.

2. Jacquet

2.1 Similarly, this facsimile is dated 1996, but the editorial Introduction is dated 1987 (a tercentenary date), one year after Carol Bates's edition of this and the 1707 book for Le Pupitre. In this case the delay has not been so significant, other than that we now know that Élizabeth Jacquet was baptized on 17 March 1665 as well as being born "around 1664."(note 4)

2.2 One of the pleasures of playing through this facsimile has been to confirm how good and reliable Bates's edition is. The unique copy of the 1687 book (I-Vc) has occasional MS entries, certainly not by Jacquet, which do not appear in the edition though they are noted in the critical commentary. They are not always distinguishable in the facsimile, and Bates usefully lists them in the Introduction. There are two intriguing questions raised by this book. One is why the only surviving copy and one of only two concordances should be in Italy. The other is the interpretation of ornaments. Jacquet does not give a table, yet her battery of signs is sophisticated and seems to occupy a mid position between Chambonnières (1670) and D'Anglebert (1689). Nonetheless it is difficult to work out quite what the difference is between a port de voix marked with a cross above the note and one marked with a curved line before the note . The turn, according to Chambonnières, begins on the main note and dips down a third. With D'Anglebert it begins on the upper note and circulates around the main note, except when the following main note is the same, in which case it is à la Chambonnières. This works well for Jacquet, since a turn on a note in a rising eighth-note scale sounds very clumsy if done according to Chambonnières. Yet Chambonnières also has it in that situation. Could it be that he did not give quite the full story in his very brief table of ornaments?

2.3 Buyers may wish to take into account that this, with little new in the introduction, costs (in England) £42.50 as opposed to £15.95 for the Fuzeau facsimile.

3. Bauyn

3.1 The so-called "Bauyn" manuscript (F-Pn Rés.Vm7 674–675) is a vastly more important musical source than either of the others, but it also covers more familiar ground. It contains almost all the known harpsichord works of Chambonnières and Louis Couperin, many in unique versions, and is also an important source for other French keyboard music of the 1650s and 60s, and for keyboard works of Frescobaldi and Froberger. This facsimile (I have reservations about the use of this term, of which more later) was first issued in 1977 with an introduction by François Lesure, when it was a most welcome replacement for the dreadfully poor quality and misleading microfilm provided in those days by the Bibliothèque Nationale. Lesure's brief introduction was concerned only with the physical makeup of the manuscript and the identity of the armorial bearings on the binding. This reissue has a very much fuller introduction by Davitt Moroney, which is mainly concerned with the musical context.

3.2 With regard to the binding, the arms are still a mystery (there are six or more families to whom they might belong), though we now have Denis Herlin's observation that, since they are impaled, they are those of a married woman. So the name "Bauyn Manuscript" is a modern convenience, unlike that of Richard FitzWilliam's Virginal Book. In his edition of Louis Couperin's harpsichord music (L'Oiseau-Lyre, 1985) Moroney made an intriguing suggestion based on an agreement between the brothers François and Charles Couperin in 1662, that Charles would get the music left by Louis at his death in 1661, and that François could make copies from it. Could these be the copies? Lesure's dating of c1660 made that conceivable. However, it is now known to be impossible, since the paper could not have been made before 1676. Lesure was nonetheless right in terms of repertory, and this is one of the main problems of the manuscript, that it has to be quite a lot later than it looks. Moroney maintains his hypothesis, though now proposing a less direct connection. Since Charles died in 1679 and François not until 1707, Louis's collection was presumably around for some time to be copied from. Nonetheless the conclusion that the works of other composers in the third part of the MS are therefore a private collection of Louis Couperin's can only be conjecture. There were plenty of people with the connoisseur's instinct in the 1680s and 90s, looking back to the golden days of Louis XIV's reign in the 50s and 60s, notably René Milleran, M. le conseiller Barbe, and Jean Étienne Vaudry de Saizenay. "Bauyn" has every appearance of being an equivalent collection.

3.3 The relation of Bauyn to the other main source of this repertory, the Parville MS (US-BEm MS 778; justly so called since "M. de Parville" is on the binding), could be further defined. Parville, with its flowing, cursive style, seems that of a youngish professional court musician. A careless one though, since he allows himself to copy the second phrase of Chambonnières's very best known piece (the courante "Iris") a third too low. The hand of Bauyn is not that of a particularly old person, but is squarer and, although most titles etc. are cursive, there are some instructions in the old secretary script which was decidedly old-fashioned for people above stairs by the 1680s. The Bauyn copyist seems more conscientious than the main Parville one, yet both sources are needed, particularly in unmeasured preludes, since Bauyn is in upright and Parville in oblong format. The system divisions therefore fall in different places and comparison is vital for an informed interpretation of the all-important tenues.

3.4 Moroney's introduction covers a great deal of ground very intelligently and is rich in suggestions. I can mention only a few which perhaps could do with some refinement. The sarabande was certainly a fast dance in the early seventeenth century, but that every sarabande not marked "grave" is to be played fast (p. 10) hardly works as a general prescription after the 1630s. Nobody could think this of the lute pieces which Denis Gaultier published in the same year as Chambonnières published his harpsichord pieces. Moroney sees a significant difference between the key ordering of Louis Couperin's preludes and that of the dances. The preludes start with D la sol re, so Mode I, while the dances begin with C sol fa ut. Moroney proposes that this ordering is more "modern" in reaching forward to the tonal system, and so was probably the work of the copyist. This is too narrow a view of the many-layered key system of the mid seventeenth century. Lebègue's suites (1677, 1687) are certainly organized loosely around a progression of church modes, but Chambonnières begins the first of his two printed books (both 1670) with A la mi re and the second with C sol fa ut, suggesting that his key order was an alphabetical one. Purcell's suites (1696) begin with G, Gamma ut, the foundation of the whole pitch system. There were many ways of looking at it, and if a harpsichord teacher, who did not have to bother with the intricacies of church modes, began with Ut as the first note of the scale, he was not necessarily a Wegbereiter for J. S. Bach.

3.5 A more serious narrowness of focus is in limiting the frame to the harpsichord and the church organ in a repertory which, though it seems to avoid the theatrical music of Lully, is part of a unity with music for viols, lute, and theorbo. The allemandes and pavanes by Richard and others in Part III of the manuscript are very similar in style and texture to those published by Dumont for viols and organ in the 1650s. The lute connection also deserves some mention, since there are six pieces that have lute concordances and several more that look like arrangements. Moroney's charming suggestion that the "Mr Gautier" of Bauyn was the pupil of Chambonnières who, Le Gallois tells us, lived "in an extremely close friendship" with Hardel cannot alas be true: the pieces are not unica but known lute works of Denis and Ennemond Gaultier.(note 5)

3.6 Coming back to the word facsimile: if there is a spectrum ranging from vastly expensive productions such as the Book of Kells and the Hours of the Duke of Berry at one pole, then Minkoff's must surely be at the opposite pole. The Boethius Press and the British Library have shown that the physical appearance of a source can be well reproduced at a reasonable price; Minkoff's are no more than photocopies. As such, a busy hand has been through this tidying out of existence note heads etc. that show through from the other side of the page, but also things which are musically vital. The 1977 facsimile had a large number of assorted photographic imperfections, the most important of which were missing prolongation dots. Curiously, the Bibliothèque Royale stamp had been deleted from pp. 287 and 406, but not from p. 1. In 1998 the stamp has been reinstated, many imperfections have been spirited away but, at a rough estimate, only about one quarter of the missing dots have been restored. A number of blemishes remain as a potential trap for the unwary, but the tidying up has removed one very important piece of evidence. In the first Couperin prelude (p. 137) the lower clef of the second system was changed in the manuscript from F3 to F4, giving a drastically different bass note from that intended, a point well discussed by Moroney in his edition. This change was quite clear in the 1977 facsimile, but the clef has now been tidied up so that it is invisible. All in all, the impression is of a cursory look through, rather than the systematic and disciplined examination one has a right to expect at this price.


*David Ledbetter (davidled@globalnet.co.uk) is a Lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. He is currently completing a book on The Well-tempered Clavier of J. S. Bach. Return to beginning


1. When a document in the hand of Jean Hurel, instrument maker who succeeded the older Charles, was auctioned at Sotheby's in May 1995, the Sotheby's cataloguer cheerfully attributed it to "Charles," saying he was both instrument maker and player (based on Grove 6; Grove 7 will rectify this). A similar confusion is in J. N. Hunt's "The Blanchets," Recherches sur la musique française classique, 27 (1991–2), 113–29. Return to text

2. Paris, Archives nationales, Minutier central, LIX, 121 (notary P. de Beaufort). This document was turned up by Corinne Vaast, who assisted Jonathan Dunford with archival work on Sainte-Colombe. There is plenty more to be discovered, and she is eager to help people in their researches. The French theorbo repertory as a whole, almost unknown compared with those for lute, viol, and keyboard, is still awaiting a comprehensive survey. Return to text

3. Acta Musicologica 34:4 (1962), 191–4; 36:4 (1964), 1–18; and 37:1 (1965), 73–4. Return to text

4. Catherine Cessac, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (Paris: Actes Sud, 1995), 21. "Élizabeth" is Jacquet's own spelling, and the one used by Bates. Return to text

5. For a discussion of the lute pieces in Bauyn, with concordances, see David Ledbetter, Harpsichord and Lute Music in 17th-Century France (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987); and "What the Lute Sources Tell Us About the Performance of French Harpsichord Music," The Harpsichord and its Repertoire, edited by P. Dirksen (Utrecht: STIMU, 1992), pp. 59–85. Return to text

Additional remarks

The following marks, not in the source, are misleading:

p. 8 system 2, last measure, LH staff (not a measure's rest)

p. 12 system 5, lower staff, mark after third tenor note

p. 80 system 1, measure 1, mark after f' half note

p. 107 last system, measure 1, mark after 1st tenor note

p. 177 system 1, last measure, lower staff, 2nd sixteenth note beam erased in source

p. 181 system 5, measure 6, lower stave, c' of 1st chord erased in source

p. 197 last system, last measure, no dot after bass note in the source

Return to text

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