Jean-Henry D’Anglebert figured prominently in the grand siècle by virtue of his position at court from 1662 to 1691. His Music is characterized by a flair for shaping a melodic phrase, a superb sense of rhythmic timing, a highly developed harmonic language, and a sophisticated suspension technique. It is crowned by luxuriant ornamentation that reflects the elegance of his time.
D’Anglebert published his only edition of keyboard works in 1689. It duplicates several of the pieces in his autograph manuscript, making possible some interesting comparisons, particularly with regard to ornamentation and the unmeasured prelude. The table of 29 ornaments, many of which D’ Anglebert devised, greatly expanded the number of ornaments and symbols in use. His works also played a role in establishing the standard suite sequence of allemande, courante, sarabande, and gigue in French keyboard music. The dances in D’Anglebert’s oeuvre, with the exception of the courante, present contrasting personalities among pieces in the same form; they invite us to a new consideration of tempo for Baroque dances.
D’Anglebert, whose music reflects the French ideal of a “stile naturel, coulant, tendre, & affectueux,” emerges as the dominant figure of seventeenth-century clavecin literature. Had Louis Couperin had the good fortune to attain D’Anglebert’s longevity, the conclusion might be different. As it is, Couperin’s works—most of which were written 30 years before D’Anglebert’s edition appeared—reflect remarkable creativity. Much of the credit for the achievements of these two men must go to Chambonnieres, the master teacher who influenced the next generation immeasurably. While Lebegue was an innovative composer with regard to contemporary trends, his pieces depend more extensively on formulas. His music achieved great popularity abroad, possibly because its simple texture was easily grasped by foreigners who wished to learn about the “French style.” La Guerre’s music is of considerably more interest than Lebégue’s, so it is surprising that only one copy of each of her harpsichord books seems to have survived, and few manuscript copies have been found. The forthcoming modern edition of her early works will be most welcome.
The French were fond of l’exception. While one may make some valid generalizations about the music of the seventeenth century, it would be risky to insist that anything always followed the same formula. One purpose of this book is to show the great diversity that existed. This is not to say that any interpretation will do. Rather, it places a greater responsibility on the performer to examine the various possibilities before arriving at a conclusion.
Willi Apel has called D’Anglebert
the most outstanding among the numerous pupils of Chambonnières. . . . Although little known today, he represents the highest development of French harpsichord music, even more so than Francois Couperin, who is usually considered the most outstanding of the clavecinistes. In d’Anglebert the loftiness and grandeur of Baroque mentality found a most impressive realization. . .1