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Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 5 (1999) No. 1

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, Céphale et Procris. Edited by Wanda R. Griffiths. Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 88. Madison: A-R Editions, 1998. [liv, 282 pp. ISBN 0-89579-404-7. $104.95.]

Reviewed by Carl B. Schmidt*

1. Introduction

2. Editorial Choices

3. Conclusions


1. Introduction

1.1 It is ironic that the most hallowed and prestigious genre of music at the Court of Louis XIV, the tragédie lyrique, is so poorly represented by published modern scholarly editions. Tragédies lyriques by Jean-Baptiste Lully set the standard for those who would follow, and while alive Lully's monopoly discouraged virtually all competition. From his death in 1687 to the early years of the eighteenth century, composers such as Pascal Collasse, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Henry Desmarest, Marin Marais, André Campra, and others—all seasoned composers—took up the genre, competing with the constant stream of Lully revivals. In the words of James R. Anthony, during this post-Lully préramiste interval "most important French composers moved toward a rapprochement with the invading Italian style."(note 1)

1.2 Into the partial void left by Lully's death also stepped Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre, not yet thirty, who had fashioned her reputation on the harpsichord as a respected performer and improviser, and who had experience as a composer of pièces de clavecin (1687) and an opéra-ballet entitled Jeux à l'honneur de la victoire (1691). However, in inevitable comparison with her predecessor Lully, who wrote numerous ballets and comédie-ballets before turning to tragédies lyriques, Jacquet de la Guerre had sparse experience writing for the stage when she composed her only tragédie lyrique, Céphale et Procris, in 1694. While we await modern scholarly editions of most of Lully's stage works, we owe a debt of gratitude to Wanda R. Griffiths for providing us with a most useful reconstruction of Jacquet de la Guerre's work.

2. Editorial Choices

2.1 Manuscript and printed sources for late seventeenth-century French stage works present the potential editor with problems too numerous to detail here. Let us rather examine those faced by Griffiths. Since no autograph manuscript is known to exist, she has relied on a set of manuscript partbooks from the atelier of Henri Foucault partially annotated by Sébastien Brossard (F-Pn Vm2 125), Brossard's manuscript arrangement of the prologue made for a 1696 performance, and a 1694 Ballard printed partition réduite. Unfortunately none of the known sources contains the complete music, nor can it be restored simply by conflating the sources. Griffiths has had to compose the missing haute-contre, taille, and quinte de violon parts throughout as well as interior vocal parts for several choruses. Her discussion of methods behind the reconstructions and suggestion that she has "been more conservative in both rhythm and voice crossings when realizing these internal instrumental parts" (p. 276) clarify what appears in period sources and what is editorial. Moreover, her use of italics for the names of instruments or vocal parts which she has composed avoids the necessity of constant reference to the critical apparatus. Griffiths never discusses whether there actually are other known sources or if these are the only ones she used.

2.2 But Griffiths's aim is not to create a scholarly edition per se, though what she produces shares various attributes with such editions. In her words (p. 276), "this edition retains as much as possible the musical text as found in the manuscript partbooks, while putting this information into a useful performing edition [italics by this reviewer], one in which issues of consistency must necessarily override those of retaining insignificant details."(note 2) In spite of using the partbooks as a primary source, Griffiths conflates her sources, taking continuo figures from one, Brossard's performance indications from another and so forth. Conflation is something that has been denigrated to generations of students, but in dealing with late seventeenth-century French sources, where autographs are lacking, editors have increasingly realized that harvesting layers of information from different sources has its advantages.(note 3)

2.3 For a literary source, Griffiths has relied on the famous early eighteenth-century Ballard collected edition. It is unfortunate that she did not locate a libretto associated with the 1694 Paris Opéra performance in time to use it as a source for her edition. The value of such librettos, which frequently contain lists of performers and indications not reproduced in Ballard's collected edition, cannot be underestimated. Recent work on literary sources for Lully's tragédies has clarified much about the production of librettos, and it is a shortfall of the present edition that this work is nowhere taken into account.(note 4) A strength, however, is the clear printing of the French livret with a parallel English translation. Good English translations of librettos from the préramiste period are few, and this one is a welcome addition, even if the play itself is hardly representative of the best literary work of the period.

2.4 In general, the editing seems to be both careful and based on sound principles. There are, however, a number of infelicities which mar an otherwise fine edition of a work by a woman whose music is increasingly becoming appreciated even by readers of beginning music-history anthologies. Unnecessary redundant accidentals are to be found in various places(note 5) and continuo figures are not always handled consistently. For Acts I–V Griffiths has used the Ballard print as her principal source of figures, retaining the old Ballard procedures of putting vertical sets of figures out of order (top to bottom 7,9,5; or 6-4 going to 5-7) and adding missing figures in square brackets. On occasion first inversions go unaccounted for by either Ballard or Griffiths, and raised or lowered thirds of chords are similarly unmarked on others.(note 6) The Ballard print itself is quite inconsistent in how it indicates final inversions of seventh chords, and Griffiths does not always help the situation by adding editorial figures. More disturbing are instances where the readings for voice and continuo are corrupt. The misplacement of the figures on p. 76, m. 24 obscures a normal V7-I cadence and mm. 11–12 on p. 77 must be in error. On p. 82, m. 21 the continuo note is probably E, not C.(note 7)

3. Conclusions

3.1 If one makes it through the technical blemishes there is much interesting music to read by a composer who had not only mastered the Lullian idiom, as Griffiths rightly points out in her informative prefatory remarks, but who also made significant departures from it. Even though the work was unfavorably received and had a very short run of performances, it provides us with fresh evidence of activity after Lully, and the efforts of one of the rare women who wrote in the genre. Quibbles with editorial infelicities aside, Griffiths's edition gives us a new perspective on the music of Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre. This edition is a welcome addition to the growing corpus of tragédies lyriques being published in modern editions.


*Carl B. Schmidt (e7m7SHM@TOE.Towson.edu) is Professor and Chairperson of Music at Towson University. His Entrancing Muse: A Documentary Biography of Francis Poulenc will be published by Pendragon Press this year. He is also editing Lully's Roland for the new Lully edition coordinated by Herbert Schneider and Jérôme de La Gorce, and compiling a detailed catalogue of the music of Georges Auric. Return to beginning


1. James Anthony, French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau, rev. ed. (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1997), 143. Return to text

2. The unavailability of instrumental parts, however, makes any performance of this work somewhat problematical. No mention of parts is contained in the edition and none were supplied with the score. Return to text

3. Editors working on the complex plethora of Lully sources have been in the forefront of reexamining the use of sources in creating a scholarly edition from this period. See, for example, Jean-Baptiste Lully: The Collected Works, Series IV, Sacred Works, Vol. 5, ed. by Anne Baker, John Hajdu Heyer, Lionel Sawkins, and Carl B. Schmidt (New York: The Broude Trust, 1996 [reviewed in this Journal, vol. 4.1 (1998)]). Return to text

4. See my Livrets of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Tragédies Lyriques: A Catalogue Raisonné (New York: Performers' Editions, 1995) and "Livrets for Lully's Ballets and Mascarades. Notes Toward a Publishing History and Chronology," in Jean-Baptiste Lully: Actes du colloque, ed. Herbert Schneider and Jérôme de La Gorce (Laaber: Laaber Verlag, 1990), 331–56. In addition, Buford Norman has just published Philippe Quinault: Livrets d'opéra, 2 vols. (Toulouse: Société de litératures classiques, 1999). Norman's work amply illustrates the problems of editions of Quinault texts and the multiple variant readings they contain. Return to text

5. See p. 79, m. 12; p. 83, Arcas, m. 2. At this point the measure numbers are also wrong. Return to text

6. For example, necessary editorial continuo figures are not always included. See p. 77 (flat lacking for Dorine, m. 11), p. 79 (6 lacking at end of m. 10), p. 166, m. 38 (sharp missing from continuo), p. 167, m. 11 (6 lacking from "D" in continuo), p. 182, mm. 6–7 (where the lack of figures implies a number of parallel root position triads and the 7 over 5 figure is incorrect). Return to text

7. The reviewer has not had access to the primary musical sources for Céphale et Procris and thus cannot make a detailed accounting of discrepancies, if any. Return to text

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