Notes and Editorial Reviews
First Book of Suites,
CPO 777 790-2 (75:15)
Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (1674–1763) possessed talent, taste, showmanship, and a shrewd business sense. Few musicians have been so synergistic in their accomplishments. As a performer, he attracted the attention of many members of the nobility and upper middle class who sought him out for lessons. Several surviving letters indicate that he would then demonstrate the music he published, for all
levels of students, on instruments fashioned in his own workshop. (The Hotteterres were originally rural cask-makers, who began creating wind instruments around the turn of the 17th century.) By all accounts he was a smooth self-publicist whose Baroque flutes ranged from simple, attractive, inexpensive examples to elaborate, beautiful specimens fit for collectors.
After publishing a highly successful treatise on basic performance, Hotteterre began in 1708 to publish a series of chamber compositions, usually for the transverse flute. The first was a series of three suites that proved extremely popular, and were reissued seven years later in a more expensive, calligraphic engraving, with two of the suites cut in half, creating five in all. It’s this version that we hear on this release from the Camerata Köln. Given that no new music was added, two of the suites lack the by then standard first movement prélude, while two others lack concluding gigues. The musicians here don’t replace the latter, the quick minuet of the Fourth Suite and minuet-like rondeau of the Second providing effective finales. However, préludes were standard at the time, and are still expected in performances of French Baroque music, today; so the Third Suite begins with a prélude taken from Hotteterre’s
L’art de préluder
of 1719, while the Fifth Suite begins with one that is improvised. This, too, is traditional, as préludes were originally improvised passages used to test out lutes, and limber up the fingers for subsequent performance.
In a move to vary textures, and give its various members a chance to take the spotlight, Camerata Köln takes seriously Hotteterre’s description of his music as fit for the transverse flute, recorder, viol da gamba, or even a solo instrument, the harpsichord. Each of these instruments receives a single suite, while the Second Suite varies the lead (sometimes with doubling) and accompaniment. All the musicians perform expertly, with a sure sense of style, though I admit to being especially impressed with harpsichordist Sabine Bauer. She gets her chance to shine in the Fifth Suite, where her pliant
phrasing and sensitive ornamentation are most welcome.
This album is labeled “volume one” of all Hotteterre’s chamber music. Given Camerata Köln’s commitment to recording, and CPO’s willingness to follow through on complete series, I have every hope this one will become a reality in time. Regardless, the quality of the music and music-making on this release is self-recommending. I’ll gladly recommend it, as well.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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