Pamela Thorby - recorders
Rachel Podger - violin
Susanne Heinrich - viola da gamba
William Carter - archlute, theorbo, guitar
With guest artists:
Nigel Eaton - hurdy-gurdy
Richard Egarr - harpsichord, organ
Jean-Pierre Rasle - musette
Recorded at St. Michael's Church, Highgate, London and The Warehouse, Waterloo, London, 6-8 May 1997
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Sleeve design by John Haxby, art surgery
Held By The Ears
The Palladian Ensemble is unusual in Early Music: an ensemble with a giant personality. How they play impresses audiences as much as what they play. In programming terms this gives them an enviable freedom. They're not restricted to "great" music, not afraid to blow the dust off the respectable second-rate, and not required to explain obscure choices on over-elaborate musicological grounds. Their performances compel attention whatever they do. People go to hear the group first, the music second - the same order of priorities as pertains in the jazz, rock and pop worlds. Nothing wrong with that: the 17th century audiences did the same. A frank gut reaction to uninhibited virtuosity turns out to be "authentic" after all:
"when an assembly for musick was, as divers were, appointed, and he onely to entertain the company... in a good humour he hath held the company by the ears with that force and variety for more than an hour together, that there was scarce a whisper in the room" Roger North on Nicola Matteis (written in 1728)
The Palladian Ensemble is firmly established on the international stage as one of the very best chamber groups performing baroque repertoire. Constant critical acclaim, a reputation for dashing, intelligent musicianship and a warm, spontaneous on-stage manner has led the Ensemble to give numerous concert and radio performances throught the UK, and to tour extensively across Europe and the USA.
Richard Egarr harpsichord, organ
Richard was born in Lincoln in 1963. His musical training began as a chorister at York Minster. After six years at Chetham's School of Music in Manchester studying piano and organ, he was awarded the organ-scholarship at Clare College, Cambridge, and it was during his time there that he began playing the harpsichord. In 1988 he took top prize in the international CPE Bach Forte piano-Clavichord-Harpsichord Competition in Hamburg.
With London Baroque, he has toured extensively throughout Europe, the USA and Japan, and made numerous radio and television appearances. Richard has also worked with all types of keyboard, from fifteenth century organ to modern piano, and covering a variety of music from the classics to Messiaen and Schöenberg. He has also worked with numerous early music ensembles, and given recitals at the Wigmore Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, and the Villas Medici in Rome.
His album of popular Bach harpsichord works was released in March 1997 to great critical acclaim.
Nigel Eaton hurdy-gurdy
Having already masted the piano and cello, Nigel took up the hurdy-gurdy when his father Christopher began making them in 1981. In 1985 he joined the groups Blowzabella and Ancient Beatbox with whom he has toured extensively in Britain, Europe and South America and recorded six albums.
He studied Baroque music repertoire and techniques for the hurdy-gurdy at the Guildhall School of Music in London and contemporary hurdy-gurdy techniques with Valentin Clastrier in France. In 1996 he won the hurdy-gurdy soloists competition at the Rencontres Internationales des Maitres Sonneurs de Vielles, St Chartier, France.
As well as being one half of "Whirling Pope Joan" with Julie Murphy, Nigel has appeared on numerous records with artists ranging from Robert Plant and Marc Almond to the New London Consort, and soundtracks for films such as Aliens and The Name of the Rose.
The hurdy-gurdy is a European stringed instrument whose origins are obscure, but it was probably developed around the 10th century, and first used in religious music. By the end of the middle ages it was in common usuage all over Europe, and in the 18th century France it was taken up by the fashionable ruling classes, in which period it reached new heights of development and sophistication. Over the last twenty years there has been a significant revival of interest in the hurdy-gurdy, and a new generation of musicians are taking to the instrument and exploring a range of musical possibilities that go far beyond its traditional folk dance music role.
Jean-Pierre Rasle baroque musette (smallpipes)
Jean-Pierre Rasle is the foremost exponent of French bagpipe music in Britain, specialising in the repertoire for the Baroque smallpipes, and shepherds' bagpipes, the Chalernie. Having studied French Baroque music and musette at the Guildhall School of Music, he was also a founder member of Folk-Baroque ensembles Folies Bergeres, Pastorales and Chalernie. He has recorded with baroque orchestra and choire Ex-cathedra, and performed with them the first modern production of Lully's Isis.
The Baroque musette was one of the most extreme examples of the revival of "Pastoral" instruments from the late 16th to the 18th centuries. Louis XIV and XV's instrument makers, in particular the Hotteterre and Chédeville families, adapted the bellows to the bag, reduced the drones to a tunable compact multi-bore box, and invented the first fully chromatic woodwind in the form of the musette changer (oboe), adding a later secondary chanter allowing a greater upper range and limited harmonies. Compulsory in many operas of the time, it was later used in sonatas as an intimate chamber instrument, and was often associated with its string counterpart, the hurdy-gurdy.
"I was sure of public approval when I set out to adapt the great compositions of Antonio Vivaldi to the rustic sound of an instrument that is the subject of all my labours".*
Nicolas Chédeville was high priest (though not the founder) of an improbable bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy cult to which much of French high society surrendered in the early 18th century. The aristocrats wandered through their country parks dressed in "peasant" clothes, picknicked on country fare (gamebirds, honey, vin de pays) - and rural music was a favourite accompaniment, played on instruments with an appropriately rustic pedigree but exquisitely craftsman-made, much "improved", sounding as civilised as they possibly could in court-professional hands. Real peasants had their revenge a generation later...
Our Chédeville was born in 1705 into a musical family related to the Hotteterres, famous makers and players of baroque woodwinds. He succeeded a deceased Hotteterre in the royal oboe band Les Grands Hautbois, served in the orchestra of the Paris Opera for over twenty years as a doubler on oboe and musette (the gentrified bagpipe) but was best known as a teacher, "master of the musette to the ladies of France" - ladies whose fathers and husbands could afford his fees. He made instruments (expensive ones), wrote musette music and had it published with dedications to the "illustrious virtuosos" whom it was his lucrative pleasure to teach. Much of it, a surprisingly high proportion, he labelled "amusements" or "amusantes" - entertainments/entertaining, as if to assure patrons that undue intellectual demands were not about to be made on them, or to combat anti-bagpipe prejudices.
Arranging Vivaldi for musette was an attempt to appropriate some "serious" repertoire for his favourite instrument; and to get his own more challenging compositions taken seriously, Chédeville had them published as Vivaldi's (the recorder sonata here, for instance, from Chédeville's Vivaldi style collection Il Pastor Fido). Scholars corrected these deliberate misattributions only about a decade ago. It is a complicated relationship: Vivaldi the innocent victim, Chédeville borrowing both his music and his good name. And admireres of The Four Seasons in the familiar Vivaldi version will find there are more surprises to come.
Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter are the first four concerti grossi in a larger collection, Vivaldi's Opus 8: Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventoine ("The trial of harmony and invention"). This first appeared in print in 1725. In August 1739 Chédeville obtained a privilege (a license, needed in tightly-regulated France) to publish
'Vivaldi's Spring, a concerto, and other concertos and sonatas, chosen from among all the Italian composers... arranged, transposed and modified so that they can be easily played on the musette, hurdy-gurdy or flute, accompanied by violins and bass, and all instrumental compositions by himself...'
- declaring himself composer and arranger-in-chief for fashionable rustic instruments. The promised publications followed at intervals. But Vivaldi's Spring had to wait a decade or so, along with the rest of The Seasons.
In 1748 Chédeville retired from the Opera on a pension, on condition that he would return to play the musette whenever required. He was appointed musette master to the daughters of Louis XV, and took out another privilege relating specifically to Le Printems ou Les Saisons Amusantes. He had captured the highest pedagogical prize, an achievement which perhaps he wanted to mark with a publication of more than passing significance. "I was sure of public approval [he wrote in the preface] when I set out to adapt the great compositions of Antonio Vivaldi to the rustic sound of an instrument that is the subject of all my labours."* A straightforward transcription wouldn't do. Chédeville transposed, freely reworked and swapped movements about. He cancelled Summer altogether, replacing it with another of Vivaldi's Opus 8 concertos (No. 9 - again, freely rearranged). A cold snap surprises us in the middle of Autumn, the slow movement of the original Winter relocated. Winter in Les Saisons Amusantes is Vivaldi's Opus 8 No. 12 concerto, a completely different piece possibly more grateful to play on the musette.
Though Chédeville, a musette viruoso, thought primarily in musette terms, he anticipated performances on the hurdy-gurdy too. Both were used for this recording, the hurdy-gurdy predominating - that's the rasping sound like a crazed Mr. Punch humming along. Bagpipes produce a softer, more refined effect, though still undeniably rustic. Chédeville allowed for flute solos in his 1739 privilege (not so "easily played" these ones); and the violin does rather more than accompany.
The Palladian Ensemble, Nigel Eaton, Richard Egarr and Jean-Pierre Rasle made their own performing version, triumphantly avoiding the monotony which would have set it, had only set of scoring options been stuch with throughout.
When he was nearly seventy Chédeville married the younder daughter of a valet who had once worked for the Duc d'Orleans, describing himself in the marriage register still as musette player to the king. Soon afterwards he ran into financial trouble. His ten houses were signed over to creditors in 1774; his wife took charge of his remaining property, and the couple seperated. In 1777 he resigned his place in Les Grandis Hautbois; in 1778 he petitioned for bankruptcy, and in 1782 died a lonely death in Paris. The rustic music craze had passed; Chédeville's livelihood disappeared with it. But the world of rural make-believe in which Chédeville belonged was about to come to an end too. Lawyers were still trying to settle his affairs as late as 1790, a year into the Revoluation.
*French: "Lorsque j'ai entrepris d'adapter les grandes compositions d'Antonio Vivaldi au ton champetre d'un instrument qui fait tout l'object de mon travail, j'etais sûr d'estime du Public."