To the modern reader, “transcription” may evoke an image of a luxuriant orchestral arrangement of J. S. Bach’s organ Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Nevertheless, transcription was widely accepted and practiced in the Baroque period, and Bach himself artfully transcribed Vivaldi’s violin concertos for harpsichord and organ. D’Anglebert, too, arranged lute and orchestral music for harpsichord so skillfully that, without the attributions, one might never suspect the origins of the pieces. The models he transcribed were probably among the most popular pieces at court. Modern readers should not overlook these works simply because they are transcriptions, for there are many treasures among them.
Although keyboard transcriptions are common in seventeenth-century French manuscripts, D’Anglebert provides the only examples in a harpsichord publication of the period. Bruce Gustafson’s catalog lists 291 transcriptions of 189 pieces by Lully, most of which do not identify the arranger.1 Music of the lutenists, particularly of Ennemond and Denis Gaultier, contributed a good share of the models for this repertory. D’Anglebert’s transcriptions and doubles (variations) fall into three main categories (see Appendix 3 for a complete listing): lute pieces by Ennemond and Denis Gaultier, René Mesangeau, and Germain (or Pierre) Pinel; orchestral and other pieces by Lully; and doubles of keyboard pieces by Chambonnières, Louis Couperin, and Étienne Richard. The remaining pieces are SarabandeMarais and four short arrangements from popular sources.
Transcriptions from Music of the Lutenists
D’Anglebert’s fifteen transcriptions of lute pieces preserve music from the earlier part of the seventeenth century. They include twelve by Ennemond Gaultier le vieux (1575–1651) and one each by his cousin Denis Gaultier le jeune (1603–1672), Rene Mesangeau (d. 1638), and Germain Pinel (d. 1661), who probably wrote the sarabande attributed to Pinel.
Of the 119 sources for seventeenth-century French harpsichord music in Gustafson’s catalog, only thirteen date from before 1650. Since these early manuscripts contain primarily lute transcriptions and popular music, rather than original pieces for the harpsichord, perhaps little was written for the instrument before the time of Chambonnières. The lute accumulated an impressive repertory because of its popularity in the first half of the seventeenth century, but as the century wore on the épinette and the clavecin began to come into their own. Since all three instruments have an evanescent tone, their compositional techniques (style luthé and free-voice texture) are similar.
D’Anglebert’s transcriptions of lute pieces retain the broad melodic outline of the original piece (but have written-out embellishment and ornament symbols), add and subtract voices where needed, fill in chords, and change the harmony occasionally. In his arrangement of Mesangeau’s Sarabande (Ex. 1), D’Anglebert elaborates the static melodic line by means of dotted notes, additional pitches, and ornamentation, while maintaining a fluent accompaniment.
D’Anglebert’s arrangements from the lute literature consist of an allemande, seven courantes, four sarabandes, two gigues, and one chaconne (no other source exists for several of E. Gaultier’s pieces2). Le vieux Gaultier’s Allemande in C major (La Vestemponade) is a fine classic example of this form—ceremonious and formal, with a well-constructed melody. His courantes are filled with intricate details, broken textures, and frequent syncopations, which are heard best at a slow tempo. Gaultier’s gift for melody is shown advantageously in these courantes; particularly lovely are Les Larmes and L’lmmortelle, which Titon du Tillet (1732) called one of Gaultier’s best-known works. D’Anglebert’s transcriptions of sarabandes from Pinel, Me-sangeau, and the two Gaultiers are all attractive pieces. The beautiful Sarabande du vieux Gautier has the most-involved texture, with an accented second beat characteristic of many slow sarabandes.
E. Gaultier’s two splendid duple-meter gigues present contrasting rhythmic devices (see p. 155 for examples and a discussion of duple-and triple-meter gigues). D’Anglebert arranged the gigue La Poste an octave higher, suggesting his desire to produce a work idiomatically suited to the harpsichord. Gaultier’s Chaconne, written in 3/2 time rather than 3/4, is a striking piece with immediate appeal. A four-measure Grand couplet recurs at irregular intervals between intervening couplets, while an almost continuous procession of eighth notes permeates the intricate fabric.
These arrangements preserve the art of the famous French lutenists at its zenith in the mid-century. By 1732 lute music was seldom heard in Paris, for perhaps only three or four old players remained.3 Titon du Tillet attributes this sad state of affairs to the difficulty of playing the instrument well and to the fact that it was seldom heard in concerts.
Transcriptions of Music by Lully
Lully’s great popularity at the French court is reflected in D’Anglebert’s many transcriptions for the royal patrons, who probably wished to hear their favorite pieces as often as possible. Furthermore, since D’Anglebert spent a good portion of his time teaching the clavecin to the children of the royal family and of nobility, keyboard arrangements of familiar melodies perhaps made useful teaching material.
According to Titon du Tillet, Lully’s music had considerable impact on French taste. His pieces
have a natural and graceful melody of a type totally different from those heard previously. . . . It is these pleasing licenses [dissonance treatment] that render Lully’s works so beautiful, so brilliant, and so admirable, and that have saved our music from an often boring uniformity and an insipid exactitude. . . . One finds in his récits, in his airs, in his choruses, and in all his instrumental works an appropriate and true character, a marvelous variety, a charming melody and harmony. His tunes are so natural and so ingratiating that even a person without an ear for music can remember them after four or five hearings. Both those of high rank and ordinary people sing most of the airs from his operas. The palace and the most beautiful apartments, as well as middle-class homes and the streets themselves, resound with them.4
With the complete support and encouragement of the king, Lully had an astoundingly successful career. He became known as “the incomparable Lully.”
D’Anglebert’s lavish praise of Lully’s music in the Preface to Pièces de clavecin was not insincere. There can be no question that Lully possessed an extraordinary ear for melody and musical craftsmanship. It is quite possible that the pieces D’Anglebert transcribed were the king’s favorites, since he would have wanted to honor his employer’s good taste.
He skillfully transcribed Lully’s Ouuerture from Cadmus et Hermi-one, a five-part orchestral score. The most obvious alteration is the addition or subtraction of voices, a necessary part of writing for the harpsichord since nuances of shading are achieved in this manner.5 D’Anglebert also arpeggiates the chords in the accompanying voices and adds an upbeat (see Ex. 2). Another visible change is the addition of numerous ornamentation symbols, which are a trademark of D’Anglebert’s writing. More subtle changes include reducing the wide spacing of the first chord and simplifying the inner voices. In adapting an orchestral bass line to the harpsichord, D’Anglebert achieves greater sonority by doubling octaves and repeating notes. He also changes fifths and octaves approached by parallel or similar motion, but one should note that Lully usually left the addition of the inner voices to assistants. Lully’s whole note at the end of the first section of this overture is replaced with a pattern of two eighth notes followed by a half note (a common ending of D’Anglebert’s dance settings), while the following upbeat is simplified to a single eighth note. As successive voices enter in the following fugue, other voices are dropped, so the texture is always manageable at a keyboard. Eighth notes are added to keep the motion flowing (e.g., in mm. 16, 17, and 19); the texture is simplified; and parallel thirds, sixths, and tenths are omitted.
Exercising his artistic prerogative, D’Anglebert frequently changes the rhythmic values of Lully’s outer voices. He imagines these works as a magnificent framework that can be effectively adorned with little rhythmic variations, turns of phrase, and ornamentation. They thereby reflect the transcriber’s unique style and become eminently suited to the harpsichord.
Of D’Anglebert’s twenty transcriptions from Lully, four are overtures (Cadmus; Isis; Le Carnaval, Mascarade; and Proserpine), while nine have a dance form included as part or all of the title:
Courante in G minor
Sarabande. Dieu des Enfers
Gigue in G minor
Menuet. dans nos bois
Menuet la Jeune Iris
Chaconne de Galatée
Chaconne de Phaéton
Bourée. Air de Ballet por Les Basques
The remaining seven pieces are miscellaneous short airs or ballets:
Ritournelle des Feés de Rolland
Les Sourdines d’Armide
Les Songes agreables d’Atys
Air d’Apollon du Triomphe de l’Amour
Air de Ballet. Marche
Les Demons. Air de Ballet
2e Air des Demons
Thus the following stage works by Lully are represented in D’Anglebert’s transcriptions:
|Xerxés (1660) Comédie en musique||LWV 12|
|Ballet de la Naissance de Vénus (1665) Ballet||27|
|Le Carnaval, Mascarade (1668) Mascarade||36|
|Cadmus et Hermione (1673) Tragédie en musique||49|
|Thésée (1675) Tragédie en musique||51|
|Atys (1676) Tragédie en musique||53|
|Isis (1677) Tragédie en musique||54|
|Proserpine (1680) Tragédie en musique||58|
|Le Triomphe de l’Amour (1681) Ballet||59|
|Phaéton (1683) Tragédie en musique||61|
|Roland (1685) Tragédie en musique||65|
|Armide (1686) Tragédie en musique||71|
|Acis et Galatée (1686) Pastorale héroïque||73|
D’Anglebert’s arrangements make these imaginative pieces more accessible, for some of Lully’s works have not been published in a modern edition and his stage works are seldom performed. The Gigue in G minor (for which no other source has been located) and the Courante in G minor may date from around 1660, since they have more in common with the courantes and gigues of Chambonnières and L. Couperin than with those of D’Anglebert. The Courante contains fine detailing of the lower voices; while the Gigue, which shifts between 3/2 and 6/4 time, reflects the fascinating rhythms of the French gigue from this period. These pieces make an excellent set with the Sarabande Dieu des Enfers (“God of the Underworld,” from the ballet La Naissance de Vénus), in which the solemn melody moves majestically with a solid underpinning.
Lully’s two menuets were written for the king’s elaborate coucher (bedtime) ceremony (see chapter 1). Although the normal menuet tempo was rapid at this time, D’Anglebert marks his transcriptions Lentement, which is appropriate for their tranquil mood. An unobtrusive, fluent harmony accompanies the lovely melodies, perhaps selected by the king himself.
The two contrasting chaconnes, sets of variations constructed on a ground bass, complement each other. Chaconne de Galatée (marked Lentement) moves gracefully through ten variations of four measures each; but the lengthy and more energetic Chaconne de Phaeton—written for troops of Egyptian, Ethiopian, and Indian dancers—is designed to move in the customary, brisker tempo of the French chaconne. Jacques Hotteterre (1719) gives this particular chaconne as an example of a mouvement that is gai and the Passacaille d’Armide as one that is grave.6
The most monumental of these transcriptions, the Passacaille d’Armide, is also a large set of variations on a ground bass. It and Chaconne de Phaeton exemplify Sebastien de Brossard’s definitions of these two forms, in which the passacaille is described as slower, more serious, and in the minor mode (see p. 164). The abundant ornamentation of Passacaille d’Armide furnishes further corroboration for a slow tempo. This magnificent passacaille, scored for five-part strings with interspersed solo flutes, fills nearly all of scene 2, a divertissement from act 5 of Armide. The use of flutes may be significant, for Brossard’s Dictionaire mentions that the style associated with them is sad and languishing.7 Passacailles often convey an Affekt of tenderness or lament, which in this instance is suggested by the text’s warning to enjoy a short-lived happiness, because love reigns no longer in the winter of our years. Lully conceived the Passacaille on a grand scale. The instrumental portion transcribed by D’Anglebert is followed by three récits, each with an answering chorus, which are separated by ritornellos for flutes. Lully’s instructions are to repeat the first Récit & Choeur, return to the beginning of the Passacaille, and continue to the end of the first Récit & Choeur.
Lully’s other overtures and small-scale miscellaneous airs and dances are also interesting. Les Songes agreables d’Atys has considerable grace and charm; Les Sourdines d’Armide [sourdines meaning muted strings] expresses a haunting beauty; and Air de Ballet. Marche, from Isis, conveys the vigor of the dance.
Sarabande. Marais is probably a transcription of a piece by Marin Marais, the famous gambist. No original has been located. It may have been written when Marais was about twenty years old, since D’Anglebert’s manuscript has a posterior date of the late 1670s. The sarabande is a tendre piece, with an elegant, beautifully ornamented melody.
Finally, D’Anglebert’s Pièces de clavecin contains arrangements of four well-known melodies of unknown origin: Two are slow gavottes marked Air ancien (“Ou estes vous alle” and “Le beau berger Tirsis”), and two are familiar melodies of a folklike nature called Vaudevilles (“La Bergere Anette” and “Menuet de Poitou”). D’Anglebert may have included them for their popular appeal, since he notes that they have a noble simplicity that is pleasing to everyone.
Not only did D’Anglebert consider his arrangements worthy of publication, but also he elevated transcription to an art form by means of his harmonic and rhythmic adjustments, use of style luthé and free-voice texture, simplification of orchestral textures, and added embellishment. He created idiomatic pieces for the harpsichord that can stand beside his own.
Doubles of Other Composers’ Pieces
Keyboard doubles are in the tradition of the lutenists, who sometimes gave each part of an air twice, the repetition being an embellished version of the first rendition. D’Anglebert perhaps wrote the doubles based on other keyboard composers’ pieces to honor his teacher, Chambonnières, and his colleagues Louis Couperin and Étienne Richard. He composed doubles for four of Chambonnières’s courantes, two of his sarabandes, and one of his gigues; for the Allemande in G major by Louis Couperin; and for the sarabandes by Pinel and Richard. These doubles all appear in D’Anglebert’s manuscript after the respective composer’s original piece. Except for some added ornamentation, Richard’s Sarabande is not altered, but D’Anglebert does make numerous small revisions in the given originals of Chambonnières’s works that contribute to a fluent line. Most of D’Anglebert’s doubles elaborate primarily the melodic line, but his attractive double for Louis Couperin’s Allemande in G major subtly varies all the voices of this pseudopolyphonic piece. Composers well into the eighteenth century continued to vary their own pieces by means of doubles, but relatively few took D’Anglebert’s route of embellishing other composers’ works.