D’HERVELOIS Third Book of Mr de Caix d’Hervelois • Jean-Louis Charbonnier, Paul Rousseau (vl); Mauricio Buraglia (thb, lt); Pierre Trocellier (hpd) • LIGIA DIGITAL 0301155-05 (76:00)
Marin Marais was the most celebrated student of the noted violist Sainte-Colombe, but several others achieved prominence as well, including Louis de Caix d’Hervelois (c. 1680–?). His background is no longer certain, but it is believed that he was a member of the Lyonese Caix family, whose members were noted viol players for severalRead more generations. (Four of the line were on the rolls as musicians belonging to the Chambre du Roi in 1749. It didn’t get any more prestigious than that.) D’Hervelois himself held no court positions, but among his patrons was the Duc d’Orléans, and he held a royal license for the publication of music—not something extended by the throne without good cause, even if it was also paid handsomely for the privilege.
Although he wrote more than 300 pieces for the bass viol, d’Hervelois is not mentioned in any surviving literature by his contemporaries. That noted, his work does turn up in several manuscripts of the period devoted to collections of viol music, alongside such worthies as Forqueray and Marais, who were among the most celebrated viol players of their time. His music must have sold well, too, as he published quite a bit of it, with the financial aid of his sponsors. Even a Maecenas of a patron such as d’Orléans wouldn’t have financed an inferior musician. As for the four suites that comprise the composer’s Third Book, they display the French suite at a stage in its evolution where the original series of dances (frequently a prelude, allemande, courante, and sarabande, but with other combinations possible) was being gradually abandoned in favor of collections of character pieces. Each of d’Hervelois’ suites begins with a prelude, more songful than profound; two change midway into much faster music, as though each were a prelude within itself. Beyond that, the mix of dance movements is completely individual. The First Suite includes a sarabande, rondeau, and two rigaudons, while the Third Suite supplies an allemande, two menuets, a gigue, and a musette.
All of the selections are relatively short and uncomplicated, with one- to three-part contrapuntal textures dominating. They strive for neither the grandeur of Marais nor the fiery brilliance of Forqueray, but possess a direct charm entirely their own. Rhythms are infectious, and the thematic content pleasant, if unmemorable. “Le Baron,” set as an elegant, graceful dance, refers to a famous actor of the period; “La Michel,” whoever he might have been, is as sanguinary and garrulous as the finale to Nielsen’s Symphony No. 2. Did “Les Vendengeuses de Montguichet,” the Monguichet vineyards, provide an especially dry, lively vintage to match d’Hervelois’ drily witty, lively music? Then there are the folk pieces, such as the rigaudon of the Second Suite that imitates the hurdy-gurdy perfectly, while the Third Suite’s musette does as much for the French bagpipes. Few of these selections last longer than two minutes; that referring to the vineyards above lasts less than one. The portraits and dances aren’t vivid in the way that those by Rameau or Couperin le Grand are, but they share one virtue with those by these masters: They never outstay their welcome.
Jean-Louis Charbonnier may lack the popular name recognition of Jordi Savall in the U.S., but he misses out on none of the experience, skill, or research necessary to an expert viol player. (As a point of irony, he was music consultant for the film Tous les matins du monde, where Savall’s viol performance arguably provided his popular breakthrough.) His tone is lighter than that of either Christophe Coin or Savall, with an almost tenor-like quality to his bass instrument in its upper range. He is also less inclined to linger over the more expressive pages of this music—the first half of the melancholy “La Saché,” for instance, or the sentimental “La Gracieuse”—maintaining a chosen tempo, while allowing for flexibility within the bar. Technically, the others have nothing on him. His bowing and fingering are unerring, regardless of difficulty. He’s joined, sometimes as a second lead instrument, sometimes as continuo, by Paul Rousseau, whose tone provides a good match. Mauricio Buraglia and Pierre Trocellier don’t merely accompany; in the best tradition of the French Baroque, they fill in spare lines as required with stylistically appropriate figuration.
Good liner notes, and vivid, close up sound complete the disc. Recommended, with enthusiasm.