Tastes Re-united – Music for the Ballet and the Opera
8pm – Saturday February 11
Alix Goolden Hall
In 1661 Jean Baptiste Lully became surintendant de la musique de la chambre du roi which gave him enormous control over musical life in Paris and Versailles. Lully, ironically an Italian by birth, had been responsible for establishing a French musical style, as well as many of the institutions which were founded during the reign of Louis XIV, originally with a view to demonstrating the strength and splendour of the French court. Along with Molière he invented the comedie-ballet and later a true opera style to rival the Italian opera, the tragédie lyrique, or tragédie en musique.
François Couperin’s compositional life falls roughly between that of Lully and Rameau. In 1693 he succeeded his teacher as organiste du roi (still Louis XIV), and was appointed ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du Roi in 1717. Strongly influenced by Corelli, he introduced the Italian trio sonata form to France. In his grand trio sonata, L’Apothéose de Lulli, he attempts to reconcile the two styles in what he referred to as Les Gouts Réunis. His music strongly influenced later composers, including J.S.Bach, Brahms, Richard Strauss and Ravel. Said Couperin:
“The Italian and the French styles have for a long time shared the Republic of Music in France. For myself, I have always highly regarded the things which merited esteem, without considering either composer or nation; and the first Italian sonatas which appeared in Paris more than 30 years ago, and which encouraged me to start composing some myself, to my mind wronged neither the works of M de Lully, nor those of my ancestors, who will always be more admirable than imitable. And so, by a right which my neutrality gives me, I remain under the happy influence which has guided me until now.”
Beginning in the 18th century French musicians increasingly went to Italy to study, and Italian virtuosi were heard more frequently in Paris, and over time Italian style and forms (concerto, opera) superseded French forms in the popular taste. This did not happen without a great deal of debate however. After the death of Lully in 1687, Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683- 1764) became the predominant composer of French opera, but only long after first establishing his reputation as a music theorist. His first opera, Hippolyte et Aracie, (1733) was strongly criticized by Lully’s supporters because of his revolutionary use of harmony, considering the work an attack on the French musical tradition. The two camps, the so-called “Lullistes” and “Rameauneurs”, fought a pamphlet war over the issue for the rest of the decade. Later in his life Rameau was criticized for being too conventional and not adapting enough to the newly in-vogue Italian opera buffa style. Rousseau was a major participant in this second great quarrel, the so-called Querelle des Bouffons. Rameau’s music was considered old-fashioned and too complicated and ‘un-natural’. All that said, Rameau’s music is unique in the richness of its orchestration and wonderful range of colours. His opera-ballet Les Indes Galantes drew on the 18th century French fascination with exotic foreign peoples including ‘les sauvages’ of North America, and was enormously successful (by 1773 there had been well over a hundred performances).
Georg Philipp Telemann is notable for being the most prolific composer ever. More remarkable still is that he managed to adapt his style to changing tastes through his very long life, and mastered many different forms. In 1720 he settled in Hamburg where he was responsible for the music in five different churches; his reputation was considerably greater than that of his contemporary J.S. Bach. He wrote a great number of orchestral suites in the French style, including this unique piece which is about as close as anyone got to writing a concerto for viola da gamba. His clever writing allows the soft tones of the viola da gamba to stand out in the texture of the stronger violin-family instruments of the accompanying orchestra.
Jean-Baptiste Lully – Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1670)
François Couperin – L’Apothéose de Lully, from Les Gouts Réunis (1725)
Marin Marais - Alcione: Suite des Airs à jouer (1706)
Jean-Philippe Rameau – Suite from Les Indes Galantes (1735)
Georg Philipp Telemann – Suite in D Major for viola da gamba, strings and continuo, TWV 55:d6
Paolo Pandolfo – viola da gamba
Marc Destrubé – baroque violin, director
Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Francois Couperin, Allemande – 1er concert, Les Concerts Royaux