The reign of Louis XIV in France (1643–1715) coincided with a remarkable development in the arts. Was it happenstance that so many brilliant minds were active at the same time? Or did music, theater, and the visual arts flourish because Louis supported them so handsomely? The arts not only enhanced the king’s image but were an important source of stability for a society burdened by the costs of a series of wars during the Sun King’s reign. Moreover, Louis genuinely enjoyed beautiful furnishings and elegant surroundings, and he loved the theater, dance, and music in all its forms.
Jean-Henry D’Anglebert played a leading role at court as the king’s harpsichordist from 1662 to 1691. One of the most significant musicians of the seventeenth century, D’Anglebert not only composed music reflecting an imaginative harmonic vocabulary and a gift for melody but also pioneered in such areas as ornamentation and notation for the unmeasured prelude. He holds his own with François Couperin and Jean-Philippe Rameau from the next generation but, for some reason, he has not received much attention. Perhaps D’Anglebert has been overlooked because he left only a modest amount of keyboard music, in contrast to the larger oeuvres from Couperin and Rameau. Jean-Baptiste Lully and his operas dominated the late seventeenth century so completely that other musicians seem mere background figures despite the fact that keyboard music was vigorous and healthy during this period.
Little French harpsichord music has survived from the first half of the seventeenth century, so our history really begins with the editions by Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres, published in 1670, near the end of his life, and Louis Couperin’s pieces in manuscript from the 1650s. Both D’Anglebert and Couperin were students of Chambonnieres, so the three musicians may have exchanged the lively ideas that produced the literature we have today. D’Anglebert’s music is found in an autograph manuscript from the 1660s–1670s, in his Pièces de clavecin, published in 1689, and in eleven other manuscripts containing miscellaneous pieces. Kenneth Gilbert’s carefully executed modern edition of D’Anglebert’s works has enabled harpsichordists to explore this trésor. In discussing D’Anglebert’s harpsichord and organ music, as well as his important contributions to ornamentation and transcription, I have included, where appropriate, examples from works of other key figures of the period—Chambonnieres, L. Couperin, Nicolas-Antoine Lebegue, and Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre. Several chapters are devoted to ornamentation and tempo in late seventeenth-century France in order to demonstrate the wide variety of performance practice at this time. After Frederick Neumann’s work with the trill and the one-note grace broke new ground, I pursued the matter by translating the early treatises without recourse to his work. My initial orientation centered around “traditional” present-day ornament performance practice, but I found these ideas undergoing alteration as I worked with the treatises and the internal evidence in D’Anglebert’s music itself.
Biographical information about D’Anglebert in the existing literature is often contradictory and erroneous. Moreover, some of the documentation for the scanty biographical information compiled in the nineteenth century by Auguste Jal and Léon de Laborde was destroyed in the fire at the Hôtel de Ville in Paris on 24 May 1871. It is especially vexing that even D’Anglebert’s date of birth cannot be established; fire and the Revolution seem to have wiped out the sources. A search through nearly illegible baptismal records in Bar-le-Duc has thus far been fruitless. I am indebted to Jean Guinard of the Cercle Généalogique de Lorraine for assisting me in this effort.
The major encyclopedias contain relatively brief articles about D’Anglebert (and they are not reliable in all respects), while articles and books on French keyboard music of the seventeenth century generally award him only a few lines. A notable exception is the commentary by Willi Apel, in The History of Keyboard Music to 1700,
With d’Anglebert French clavier music reaches its highest point of Baroque magnificence and fulness. His skill in continuing a melody, contrapuntally interweaving voices, concatenating harmonies by way of suspensions, and always using meaningful figures as ornaments brings to a final culmination and maturity what his teacher, Chambonnières, began—and certainly his was no mere beginning. The music that follows begins to show the traits of the Rococo style galant.
The following libraries, institutions, and publishers have graciously permitted me to reproduce material from their holdings: Bibliothèque nationale (Paris), Archives nationales (Paris), Newberry Library (Chicago), Bibliothèque municipale (Troyes), Carl Dolmetsch Library (Haslemere), Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Musikabteilung (Berlin), Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello (Venice), Houghton Library and Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library of Harvard University (Cambridge), Music Library of Boston University (Boston), Music Library of Yale University (New Haven), Broude Bros. Ltd., and Éditions Minkoff. I thank Pierre Hardouin for his generous sharing of data relating to the D’Anglebert family and the executor of the estate of the late Thurston Dart for permitting me to examine the manuscript of clavecin music from Dart’s personal collection.
I gratefully acknowledge assistance from, among others, William Dowd, David Fuller, Bruce Gustafson, Edward Higginbottom, John Hsu, Helen La Fleur, Kenneth La Fleur, Nancy Orton, Barbara Owen, William Parsons, Robert Schuneman, and members of the Alliance of Independent Scholars, Cambridge.