1.1 These facsimile editions of French manuscript sources for the viol document a previously unknown repertory, that of seventeenth-century French solo (unaccompanied) music for the bass viol. They are devoted to two of the most prolific seventeenth-century composers for the instrument, Dubuisson and Sainte-Colombe. The editors, Stuart Cheney and François-Pierre Goy, bring forward new archival evidence to demonstrate convincingly that Dubuisson was Jean Lacquemant (or Lacman), who taught music in Paris from 1655 until he died in 1680 or 1681, and that Sainte-Colombe was Jean de Sainte-Colombe, who lived in Paris and died between 1690 and 1699. The latter identification overturns a previous theory that Sainte-Colombe may have been Augustin Dautrécourt, a viol player in Lyons.
2.1 The publication of the manuscript from the Bibliothèque municipale de Tournus in a facsimile edition is especially significant for viol players and scholars. Discovered in 1992 near the time that the film Tous les matins du monde drew the public's attention to Sainte-Colombe as both viol player and teacher, the Tournus manuscript dates from about 1690 and consists of 153 pieces, nearly all of which are by Sainte-Colombe and were written for unaccompanied seven-string viol. In the preface (in French, with accompanying English translation), François-Pierre Goy presents new biographical information about the composer and his daughter, Brigide de Sainte-Colombe, who also played the viol, as well as extensive discussion of the concordances and details about this and other manuscripts of Sainte-Colombe's music.
2.2 The four suites by Dubuisson from the manuscript in the Library of Congress have been published in a modern edition,(note 1) but the facsimile edition is rewarding even for players who are already familiar with the suites, since the manuscript has two additional viol pieces in tablature as well as two additional parts, consisting of six dance melodies for treble instrument (presumably violin) and twenty hunting horn signals. At the end are several rules for bowing dance pieces on the viol that anticipate Muffat's instructions from 1698.
2.3 In an informative preface (in English, with French translation), Stuart Cheney describes the Library of Congress manuscript, which is dated 1666, as containing the "oldest French suites for any media written in the 'classic' sequence: prelude-allemande-courante-sarabande-gigue."(note 2) It includes four suites in this sequence, all in staff notation for six-string viol, followed by two apparently introductory pieces in tablature, one entitled "prélude." All but the latter piece are attributed to "D.B." or "Dubuisson," and the unattributed piece appears to be in the same hand and style as the others. The handwriting for the viol music appears to be that of an amateur rather than of a professional musician, and there are a few bowings, ornaments, and fingerings. The other two portions of the manuscript are in different hands.
3.1 The prefaces to these two editions offer new musicological insights and guidance to viol players about interpreting the unique notational features in each source. Stuart Cheney discusses each part of the Library of Congress manuscript, providing details about when it may have been compiled and by whom, and he also offers extensive concordances for Dubuisson's music and advice about interpreting the ornaments and bowings.(note 3) Cheney suggests that this collection may have belonged to a young musician who was studying in Paris with three different masters. In addition to the attribution of the viol music to Dubuisson in the manuscript, there is a signature on fol. 89 "a paris par Chrestien," which (according to Cheney) is most likely that of Jacques Chrestien (or Crétien), a Parisian manufacturer of trompes de chasse. The popularity of treble tunes for dancing is demonstrated by numerous concordances; their presence in this manuscript suggests that playing the violin was part of the training expected of a young musician. Most of the viol pieces in this manuscript are also found in a manuscript in Warsaw, (note 4) which is also available in facsimile from Minkoff. One puzzling aspect that Cheney does not touch upon is the meaning of the use of one or two dots and the vertical stroke in the untitled viol piece in tablature. The dots occur on successive letters in alternation, which possibly suggests that they might be bowing indications, but that interpretation still leaves the vertical strokes unexplained. Perhaps, since similar occurrences of one and two dots and vertical strokes can also be found in seventeenth-century lute music, this piece may have been intended for plucking the viol lute-way, a style which is known to have been used by some viol players. In that case, the dots would indicate plucking the string with the first or second fingers, and the vertical stroke would indicate plucking with the thumb of the right hand. This appears to be at least one plausible interpretation for these puzzling marks.
3.2 François-Pierre Goy's preface to the Tournus manuscript is also exceptionally well-documented. As Goy demonstrates, Sainte-Colombe now emerges as the most important French composer of unaccompanied viol music. Previously known as the first player to add the low seventh string to the viol and as the composer of a volume of Concerts for two viols, Sainte-Colombe may now be regarded as one of the most prolific seventeenth-century composers. Nine anonymous pieces and a fragment were added to the manuscript at a later time and appear to be in a later style than that of Sainte-Colombe. Goy suggests Caix d'Hervelois as a possible composer for these works, with the exception of a gigue à l'angloise from Marin Marais's second book of viol pieces (1701).
4.1 With these new editions from Minkoff, we are now able to restore an important era in the history of the viol in France, and players will be richly rewarded by exploring the personal styles of these two composers. Dubuisson's elegant miniatures display a well-crafted melody that features the top string, which is lightly ornamented and enhanced by occasional double-stops and chords. Sainte-Colombe's music, on the contrary, tends toward the expansive (although there are a few short pieces as well), with an almost rhapsodic style, especially in the magnificent preludes. The melodies are not as transparent to the listener as Dubuisson's are, and melodic fragments occur in different registers, descending even to the low seventh string. His music is full of harmonic invention, and the spontaneity of its occasional unmeasured episodes is captivating. Minkoff's initiative in publishing these important facsimiles provides viol players with a stunning new repertory to explore, and the documentation provided by the two editors makes them important musicological contributions as well.
*Mary Cyr (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of Performing Baroque Music (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1992), a viola da gambist, and is presently Director of the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Her current musicological work is on the cantatas of Nicolas Bernier and Jean-Philippe Rameau. Return to beginning
1. Four Suites for Solo Bass Viol, edited by Barbara Coeyman and Donald Beecher (Dove House Editions, Canada, c. 1980). Two subsequent volumes, Thirteen Suites for Solo Viola da Gamba, 2 vols., edited by Donald Beecher and Stuart Cheney (Hannacroix, N.Y.: Dove House Editions, 1993) present some of the same music by Dubuisson, but they are drawn from a manuscript in Warsaw (PL-Wtm, R. 221 In. 377). Return to text
2. Introduction, p. 1. Return to text
3. A previous study of Dubuisson by Cheney forms a worthwhile complement to the present work. See "A Study of Dubuisson's Life and Sources," Journal of the Viola da Gamba Society of America 27 (1990), 7–21, which includes a full list of contents of the Dubuisson manuscripts. Return to text
4. R221 in the Biblioteka Warszawskiego Towarzystwa Muzycznego. Return to text
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