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A new French harpsichord source of the mid-18th century with an Eckard connection.

There is a law of scholarship which stipulates that at the precise moment when the production of a book has reached the stage where no changes are possible, new source material appears. Such was the case with a catalogue of French harpsichord music that Bruce Gustafson and I brought out in 1990.n1 In our case there were two new sources. Both are in private hands, and it is owing to the generosity of the owner of one of them, the French harpischordist Christophe Rousset, that I am able to report on it.

The source in question, acquired from a Parisian dealer who knew nothing of its history, appears to belong to a large class of mid-18th-century French manuscript anthologies of favourite pieces copied, usually from printed music, for the use of amateur players, generally women or girls. In his case, it seems to have been someone other than the person who was to use the manuscript who ordered it to be copied. Whatever reading one gives to the three proper names,n2 the inscription suggests that the collection was a gift. The donor could have been |P.' or it could have been the two last-mentioned ladies - or P.' could be the first-name initial of Madame Vidal. |En souvenir de' (|in memory of') might seem to imply that Jenny and Mme Vidal were dead, but a collection of jolly harpsichord pieces would have been an odd way to memorialize them. The hand that copied the music was certainly of thoroughly professional quality, but it is not impossible that any of the named persons could have acquired such a hand, or, indeed, been a professional copyist.n3 The contents also are not typical of the usual manuscript anthology of the period, since they include a complete set (the keyboard part of Rameau's Pieces de clavecin en concerts), and in addition the greater part of Rameau's solo harpsichord pieces. Such a comprehensive representation of the works of one composer, occupying half the book, was, if not unique, at least rare.

Although half the contents are, by Rameau, this does not qualify as a Rameau source, since all the Rameau pieces were copied fiom engraved editions. There are two possible explanations for reproducing the harpsichord part of the Concerts without the two pads for accompanying instruments (in the original they were engraved in score). One is the practical one of providing a separate part for the harpsichordist so that the two instrumentalists would not have to look over her shoulder. To buy a second engraved copy at 24 livres, which was about 5 per cent of the cost of a good harpsichord, would have been extravagant at a time when copying was cheap. The second could have been that whoever ordered the manuscript took seriously Rameau's silly claim that the keyboard part was self-sufficient and that no one hearing a solo performance of this music would guess that anything was missing.

The real interest of the Rousset manuscript lies in the ten unknown pieces - unknown, at least, to me. See ex.1 for their incipits. (They begin on pp.68, 70, 72, 88, 89, 90, 92, 96, 97 and 102, and will be referred to hereafter by those numbers.) My failure to identify them is doubly frustrating because of the likelihood that most of them were copied from published anthologies. If the attributions are correct, then pieces by Alberti, Domenico Scarlatti, Eckard and Wagenseil will have to be added to those listed in the standard catalogues. It is, however very unlikely that the feeble music under the first two of those names is genuine. Whoever wrote the two |Scarlatti' sonatas (pp.70, 72) certainly knew the composer's style, since they are full of familiar tricks, but the thematic ideas are few and stale, while their handling is either routine or inept. Moreover, they are far too easy to play.(4) And although the famous |bass' never falters from the beginning to the end of each strain, the allegro attributed to Alberti (p.68) is even barer of thematic ideas; a glance at the lively and imaginative genuine pieces is enough to convince one that this is spurious.

The piece attributed to Eckard P.88) is better, partly owing to the complexity of the |galant' melodic style characteristic of that composer, which guarantees a certain minimum of interest (illus.1). It differs sharply from any of the published movements by this composer, however, in its brevity and in the sketchiness of the left-hand part, in which chords are indicated by figures rather than being written out. Similar Trommelbass accompaniments - but filled out and not figured - are rare in the published works of Eckard, whose left-hand parts, except for some long stretches of Alberti bass and other broken-chord patterns, are notable for their variety of texture.n5 The Allegro assai that follows this piece probably belongs with it as the second movement of a two-movement sonata. Here the left-hand part consists almost entirely of Trommelbass (in octaves, unfigured) or Alberti bass. There is nothing in these two pieces that Eckard could not have written, but the sketchiness and even abruptness of their construction, the unenterprising harmony, and the lack of textural variety suggest that, if he did compose them, he dashed them off as fast as he could write for a pupil of little talent and not much discrimination.

Like the piece by'Eckard' on p.88, the one on p.96 is attributed to a known composer - Wagenseil - but absent from the standard catalogue of his works; this, too, seems to be the first movement of a two-movement sonata.n6 Written entirely in two parts, the lower of which is made of standard accompanimental figures (mostly Alberti bass), it is nevertheless somewhat more expansive and faintly more interesting than the |Eckard. The following Corrente (which demands a keyboard compass of F' to d'''), while made exclusively out of the rather mechanical formulas of the first few bars, at least generates plenty of energy with its leaps and crashing octaves.

If the foregoing pieces represent the vast underclass of mid-18th century music, the unascribed pair in G major on pp.go and 92, also very likely a sonata, belong to the solid bourgeoisie. Indeed, if guesses as to a composer are in order in such a cliche-ridden style, Eckard would be more likely for these pieces than for the one on p.88. It is true that the first of the pair begins like the piece on p.88, with a figure Trommelbass accompaniment, but this soon gives way to a rising broken triad in semiquaver triplets which dominates from then on. Although the result lacks the variety of texture claimed above for genuine Eckard, it happens to resemble closely the somewhat exceptional authentic but unascribed piece by that composer on p.100, in which the same accompanimental figure runs almost uninterruptedly from beginning to end. Moreover, the opening motive of this piece is duplicated in an episode of the Rousset piece (ex.2), and the two pieces are of roughly the same length and make similar technical demands. The minuet that follows is full of textural and rhythmic contrast and quite good enough to be by Eckard.

What makes the Eckard connection especially interesting is that his op.1, containing the piece on p.100, was not published until 1763, four years after the date on this manuscript. It is true that 1759 Could represent the beginning of a copying effort that extended over several years, but the appearance - neat, professional and all of a piece - does not support such a hypothesis. There are plenty of other collections with which to compare this one that do seem to have been written over a long period, and, indeed, the possible Eckard autograph F-Pn D 14218 (see n-5), with its much more disparate contents, its fragments, and its changes of hand toward the end, is such a source. The Rousset text of op.1 no.4 is not quite the same as that of the engraved edition and probably represents an earlier form of the piece. The fact that the Rousset copyist must have had access to some manuscript source for Eckard now lost lends a certain credence to the hypothesis that the pieces on pp.go and 92 may be by him. Certainly the Rousset manuscript, along with D 14218, must be taken into account by anyone preparing a new Eckard edition.


[vi], 1-99, [100-107] pp., 2 blank fos. at end; oblong quarto (folio?), 25 x 36.5 cm, full leather binding, marbled endpapers; hand-drawn title-page in the style of engraving; written in a single, professional copyist's hand
page     contents
[i-ii]   [blank.]
[iii]    A Madame [?]Tourel nde [?] Buys en souvenir de sa
         file [?]Jenny et de Madame Vidal sa vieille amie
         P -
[iv]     [blank]
[v]      PIECE,' DE CLAVECIN. / EN CONCERTS. / Avec deux
         Viollons./ PAR [M.sup.R] RAMEAU. Et Plusieurs Pieces De
         Divers Aucteurs/ Annee 1759
[vi]     [blank]
1-28     [Rameau, Pieces de clavecin en concerts  1741)]
         Harpsichord part only but including the composer's
         arrangements for harpsichord alone of La Livri
         L'agacante, La timide and L'indiscrette. The order is
         that of the engraving of 1741, with the exception of
         the solo version of L'indiscrette, which is copied after
         the eponymous piece in the fourth concert.
29-37    [Rameau, selections from Pieces de clavessin (1724)]
29       Musette en rondeau
30-31    L'entretien des Muses
31       La joyeuse
32       Les tendres plaintes
32-3     Les tourbillons
33       Le lardon
34-5     Les Cyclopes
36-7     Les niais de Sologne
         With the second double only, here labelled  Variations
38-53    [Rameau, selections from Nouvelles suites de pieces
         de clavecin (c.1729-30)]
38-9     La Poule
40       Les Sauvages
41       Les Tricotets
42-3     L'enharmonique
44-5     L'egiptienne
46-7     Les Trois Mains
48-51     Gavotte
         with six doubles
52       [blank]
         La Triomphante

54-[107] [various composers]
56-7     Gavotte D'hendel (E)
         air with five variations (|The harmonious black-smith'),
         Suites de Pieces de clavecin (1720)
58-9     Scarlatti (C)
         spurious; from Pieces pour le clavecin composees par
         [D.sup.omco] Scarlatti ... troisieme volume (Paris: Boivin,
6o-61    Menuet de Paradies (C)
         with five variations
62-3     Alberti andante (Eb)
         Wormann xiii/1; see W. Wormann, |Die Klaviersonate
         Domenico Albertis, Acta musicologica, xxvii
         (1955), p.84
64-5     Alberti Allegro (A)
         Wormann v/2
66       Alberti Allegro (F)
         Wormann vii/1
67       [Alberti] Tempo di Minuetto (F)
         with four variations; Wormann vii/2
68-9     Alberti Allegro (Bb)
70-72    Scarlati Presto (Bb)
72-3     Scarlati Presto (G)
74-5     Alberti Allegro Moderato (G)
         Wormann vi/1
76       [Alberti] Giga Allegro assai (g)
         Wormann iv/2
77       Scarlati Allegro (G)
         kirkpatrick 125
78-9     Alberti Allegro Moderato (G)
         Wormann viii/1
80-81    Alberti Allegro Moderato (F)
         Wormann ii/1
82       [Alberti] Andante (F)
         Wormann ix/1
83       [Alberti] Presto (F)
         Wormann ix/2
84-5     [Alberti] Allegro ma non, tanto (C)
         Wormann iii/1
85       [Alberti] Minuetto (C)
         Wormann iii/2
86-7     Galuppi Allegro Assai (D)
         Sonata 1, second movement, in Sonate per cembalo,
         op.2 (London: Walsh, c-1760); compare thematic
         index in Baldassare Galuppi, Sonate per cembalo, i,
         ed. H. Illy (Rome, 1969)
88       Eckard Andantino (F)
89       Allegro assai (F)
90-91    Andante (G)
92       Minuetto (G)
93       Wagenseil (A)
         Michelitsch no.60(c), |allemande': see H. Michelitsch,
         Das Klavierwerk von Georg Christoph
         Wagenseil: thematischer Katalog (Vienna, 1966)
94       [Wagenseil] Minuetto [and Trio] (A)
         no.60 (g)
95       [Wagenseil] Fantasia (A)
         Michelitsch no.60(e)
96       Wagenseil Andante  Bb)
97       Corrente (Bb)
98-9     [Wagenseil] Allegro (Bb)
         Michelitsch no.75(d)

[100-101][Eckard] (A)
         Sonata, op.i no-4, in one movement; thematic index
         in E. Reeser, Ein Augsburger Musiker in Paris. Johann
         Gottfried Eckard (Augsburg, 1984), p.135
[102]    [Rondeau with two couplets] (F)
[103]    [Alberti] (F)
         Wormann ii/2
[104]    [Alberti] (g)
         Wormann iv/1

[104-5] [Alberti] (G)

Wormann i/1 [106-7] [Alberti] (G)

Wormann viii/2 (1) A catalogue of French harpsichord music, 1699-1780, ed. D. Fuller and B. Gustafson (Oxford, 1990). The form of the inventory here conforms to those in the book. (2) The handwriting is unusually hard to read-for Frenchmen I showed it to as well is myself In Tourel: instead of r, v?; instead of 1, t?; Buys: Luys? Bussy.?: Jenny: Fanny? (3) The hand was compared to a number of professionally copied, contemporaneous manuscripts without success, but no exhaustive search was undertaken. (4) The Scarlatti scholar, Joel Sheveloff, has seen these two pieces in a French source but also doubts their authenticity (private communication). (5) The published works consist of six sonatas, op.1 (1763); two sonatas, (1764); and the popular Menuet d'Exaudet (Andre-Joseph Exaudet, d 1762) With six variation 1764). All have been edited by E. Reeser (Amsterdam, 1956). See also his monograph on Eckard cited in the inventory, where he argues that the manuscript F-Pn D 14218 is in Eckard's hand and contains additional pieces by him (pp.124-34). The hand is not the same as that of the Rousset manuscript, but three of the Alberti movements Are concordant; there are also concordances with D 11608. (6) I have not checked this pair against the considerable number of Wagenseil publications in Paris libraries, which may well contain pieces that escaped the Michelitsch catalogue (see the inventory). All but one, however, postdate the Rousset manuscript by at least a year. See F. Lesure, Catalogue de la musique imprimee avant 1800 conservee dans les bibliotheques publiques de Paris (Paris, 1981), pp.640-41.

The remaining Piece, a pleasant but unexceptional rondeau on p.102, consists of a melody in the short-breathed, rhythmically fussy galant style accompanied by an almost unbroken Alberti bass.
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Title Annotation:French Baroque II
Author:Fuller, David
Publication:Early Music
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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