The Relationship of Original Harpsichord Repertoire to Lute Style

  • David Ledbetter


The absence of good-quality Parisian harpsichord sources for the first half of the 17th century is particularly disappointing given that there are numerous accounts of illustrious players connected with the court, such as the Champions, the La Barres, La Grotte and others. In the later days of the Valois there were no fewer than three joueurs d’espinette employed by the royal household, and even after the retrenchments of Henri IV in the 1590s a joueur d’espinette invariably figured in the much reduced musique de la chambre du roi. Yet we have not one piece of the quality of the most unpretentious alman in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book which can without reservation be attributed to a French harpsichordist, and this at a time when keyboard music was at a peak in England, the Low Countries and Italy. Keyboard music of French aspect does indeed appear in non-French sources, and it indicates a new style parallel to the lute’s from around 1620. But the few pieces described here are all that is known from the ‘lost’ period of French harpsichord music between Attaingnant’s prints of the 1530s and the publications of Dumont from 1652 onwards.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    F-Pn ms 9152. The musical section of this large miscellaneous collection of drawings is between f. 160 and f. 192. It is headed (f. 160): ‘Ensuivent plusieurs instrumens musicaulx avec leur tabulatore ou reigles au dessoubs. 1585’. Both manuscripts are discussed in H. Jadart, Les dessins de Jacques Cellier, and also in S. Jeans and G. Oldham, ‘The Drawings of Musical Instruments in MS Add. 30342 at the British Museum’, pp. 26–31. Jeans and Oldham conclude that Add. 30342 is either a copy 9152 or that both were copied from a common printed source as yet unidentified.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A facsimile of the piece is given as Abb. 2 in the MGG article on Costelay.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    The dot, which at first sight seems to be a fingering indication, is explained on f. 34v of the Reims manuscript as a flat sign (‘Ce poinct signiffie un b.mol’). In fact it is used in the fantasia to indicate any accidental, as was the common practice of 16th-century French notation.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    F-RS ms. 971, f. 34 and 34v. A note on f. 37 reads: ‘De la main de Jacques Cellier Dmï/A Reims 1594’.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    See B. A. R. Cooper, ‘A New Source (c1600) of Chansons and Keyboard Music’. The keyboard section of Aberdeen probably dates from after 1613, since it contains a ‘Fantaisie sur l’air de ma Bergere’ (ff. 41v–42) based on a melody from Bataille’s fourth book of airs published in that year (f. 11). The repertoire consists mainly of dances, many of which bear common timbre titles such as ‘La daufine’, ‘Destin’ etc.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Probably compiled in Germany by pupils of a French teacher c1660 (B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, pp. 34–8).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Gustafson, op cit, i, pp. 92–4.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    A genuine example of beginner’s notation in a keyboard source, with letters written under the notes, is provided by Gen. 2350/57.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    R. T. Dart, ‘John Bull’s Chapel’Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, pp. 789Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    It is edited in BONFILS XXIX XXX, pp. 14–19.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    It is used in Celle as the basis for a set of variations attributed to Sweelinck. Gustafson (French Harpsichord Music, i, pp. 80–81) suggests that it may be by a La Barre on the grounds that it appears in the keyboard source Gresse (no. 21) as ‘Almande LB’. It is given anonymously in two other keyboard sources (Copenhagen 376, no. 39, and Berlin 40623, no. 72) and in the lute sources Sibley (p. 22), CNRS (f. 40), Panmure 5 (f. 2jv), Panmure 8 (ff. 10v–ii) and Werl (f. 77(a)), while Rostock 54 (p. 141) gives it as ‘Allemande. G.’ (sc. Gaultier). A further anonymous version is in the consort source Bod.410 (no. 10). It was clearly a popular dance melody, and no firm conclusions can be drawn about its authorship.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, p. 120Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    There are two settings of airs by Guédron in Bataille’s sixth book of airs (1615): ‘Ces nymphs’ (no. 15; cf. Bataille, ff. 14v–15) and ‘C’est trop courir les eaux’ from the Ballet de madame (no. 21; Bataille, ff.4v–5). Another setting of the latter is in the Swedish lute source Per Brahe (1618–21), f. 40 (‘Balletto’).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    A thorough investigation of this source has been undertaken by David Fuller, who will present his conclusions in his forthcoming book on French harpsichord music.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Features common to the toccatas of Frescobaldi and Froberger and the preludes of Louis Couperin have been discussed in J. P. Kitchen, Harpsichord Music of Seventeenth-century France, pp. 25–30. Frescobaldi’s toccata style may well contain an element of lute influence since it shares significant features with the toccatas of Kapsberger. These are discussed by V. Coelho in ‘Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger “Della Tiorba” e l’influenza liutistica sulle Toccate di Frescobaldi’.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See the discussion of Lebègue’s preludes below. Slurs are also used to indicate keyboard tenues by Rameau (1724). P. Brunold (Traité des signes et agréments employés par les clavecinistes français, pp. 48–50) cites further examples from Marchand and François Couperin.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See CURTIS-CO, p. XVII.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    ‘Nachdem nun Froberger, im übrigen, seine Zeit in Rom nützlich gebracht hatte, ging er nach Franckreich, und nahm die frantzösische Lautenmanier von Galot und Gautier auf dem Clavier an, die damahls hochgehalten wurde’: Grundlage einer Ehrenpforte, p. 88.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    A single anonymous prelude (Parville, no. 1) in this form with a measured middle section in C time, was included by Curtis in his Louis Couperin edition on grounds of style (CURTIS-CO, no. 55). Although written in Couperin’s style, it is an inferior piece, and the attribution is rejected by Moroney (see MORONEY, p. 220, no. 123).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Middle sections in triple time or to be found, for example, in the viol fantasias of Moulinié.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    MORONEY, no. 6. References for works by Louis Couperin here and elsewhere in this chapter are to MORONEY.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    I am indebted to Kenneth Gilbert for pointing out this resemblance. Further correspondences may be found elsewhere; some of them are noted in P. Prévost, Le prelude non mesuré pour clavecin, pp. 77–81.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    See the openings of PINEL, no. 6; Gaultier Livre, p. 6 and p. 32; and Gaultier Pieces, p. 36.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    See the section ‘The new expressive harpsichord style’ in chapter I.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Panmure 4, f. 2Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    RhD p. 199. Repeated top notes of chords are also a feature of theorbo chording, where the same pitch is derived from the first and second courses as a result of the re-entrant tuning. Pitches are repeated here and in lute chords to allow the player to make a ‘sliding stroke’ across all courses without encountering discords.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    There are many examples of the written-out port de voix in Couperin’s preludes (see also MoRONEY, pp. 18–19).Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    See B. Gustafson, ‘A Letter from Mr Lebègue Concerning His Preludes’.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Further sequences are in the short C major Prelude in Rés. 89ter (GILBERT, p. 146, lines 2–3), in a full four-part texture with double alto and tenor suspensions, and in the first prelude of the Pieces (GILBERT, p. 2, lines 4–5). Another unusual structural device here is the repetition of the opening at the end, but with the original tenor movement transferred to the top part.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    See the section ‘Keyboard transcriptions and other imitations of lute music’ in chapter I.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Jacquet evidently played the lute herself since her will (1729) mentions two lutes as well as three harpsichords, a bass viol and a treble viol (S. Wallon, ‘Les testaments d’Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’, p. 212).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    David Fuller (The New Grove, art.’Chambonnières’) has perceptively observed that the tenor line in ‘La rare’ is in a kind of free canon with the top part.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    BRUNOLD-TESSIER, no. 134. The numbering for pieces by Chambonnières, here and elsewhere in this chapter, is that of BRUNOLD-TESSIER.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    BONFILS XIII, no. IGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Compare for example the lute sources Reynaud, f.107v (a) (anon.) and Robarts, f. D5v (Emond). These, however, have the figure in two parts, rather than the keyboard’s three.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    A transcription of both viol and keyboard settings is given in A. Cohen, ‘A Study of Instrumental Ensemble Practice’, pp. 16–17.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Bauyn III, no. 44, etc. A transcription is in J. P. Kitchen, Harpsichord Music in Seventeenth-century France, pp. xxvii–xxviii.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    These two courantes are edited in H. Quittard, ‘Un ancien claveciniste français: Hardelle’, pp. 3–4.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    The text of the announcement is given in B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, p. 137.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Some have an unusual metrical regularity (see for example the first eight bars of DUFOURCQ-L, p. 5) but, unlike the regularity of the lute sarabandes of Pierre Gaultier, this is skilfully concealed by the variety of ways in which the metrical pattern is presented.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    In the sarabande on JACQUET, p. 8, for example, accentual chords may settle on rich dissonances such as the diminished 7th (bar 2); this is also a feature of D’Anglebert’s sarabandes.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    The Louis Couperin sarabande MORONEY, no. 65, is the sole example of a three-strain sarabande for keyboard; while no. 113 appears to be a sarabande en rondeau (but see MORONEY, p. 218).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    See D’Anglebert in GILBERT, p. 14, first strain, and also the sarabande by Hardel in Bauyn III, no. 48.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    See for example BRUNOLD-TESSIER, nos. 23 and 120.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    See chapter II, ex. 21.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    The sarabandes in Chambonnières’ prints, like the courantes, use perceptibly less quaver brisure than do those of his in Bauyn I and other manuscript sources.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    See bar 14 of the sarabande in JACQUET, p. 21. This, together with the expressive use of delay in the top part and the two-part quaver brisure of bar 6 and at the end of the second strain, constitute the only lute-derived effects in this supposedly ‘lute’ sarabande.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    See also BRUNOLD-TESSIER, no. 15, bar 12, and no. 120, bar 7.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    A résumé of lute sarabande types is given in the section on the sarabande in ‘Lute sources c1620–c1670’ in chapter II.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    BONFILS XVIII, no. III, in the version from Gen.2348/53. This and the light phrase endings imply that it may have been arranged from a lute piece, although it has not been found in any lute source.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    See Chambonnières, no. 121; Louis Couperin, no. 97; and D’Anglebert in GILBERT, p. 35, bars 14 and 17.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    See Chambonnières, nos. 10, 43, 73 and 96.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    The title ‘Jeunes Zéphirs’ (no. 59) was evidently adopted by Chambonnières from a parody setting with text in Ballard’s first book of brunettes (BRUNOLD-TESSIER, p. 126).Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    One particularly air-like piece appears as the Sarabande ‘O beau jardin’ in Rés.89ter (no. 22) and as a volte in Bauyn I (no. 80) and Parville (no. 80).Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    The Oldham version is edited in CURTIS-CO, no. 5. See also B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, ii, p. 284.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    In other genres grave is normally contrasted with the designation gai. Saint-Lambert (Les principes du clavecin, p. 25) gives the following sequence of tempo words: lentement, gravement, légèrement, gayement, vîte, fort vîte. Gai seems therefore to be a moderate, rather than a particularly fast, tempo.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    This direction is omitted in GILBERT.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    One gigue by Chambonnières (no. 76) and one by Richard (BONFILS XVIII, no. IX) change to C time at the end. Two of D’Anglebert’s gigues (GILBERT, pp. 16 and 36) are in 12/8 time; this may be taken as a more sophisticated than usual notation of the duple-time gigue.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    It is called an allemande in Bauyn III, f. 10411, but a gigue on f. 43 of the same source.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    The single gigue by Hardel (Bauyn III, no. 49) is also of this volte type in standard format, although with the unusual time signature of 3/8; see also the first gigue from Jacquet’s ‘lute’ suite (JACQUET, p. 22).Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    The smaller genres (minuets, branles, gavottes and various character pieces) add little to this discussion. Lute examples are normally in two-part texture with occasional added chords, while keyboard ones are in the corresponding keyboard format. Gaillardes are so rare in the later lute repertoire that there is no basis for comparison with keyboard ones.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    ADLER III, pp. 114–15.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    The Allemande ‘L’offrande’ in Oxford 618, pp. 24–5. It is unattributed in three other lute sources (see W. J. Rave, Some Manuscripts, p. 303) so the attribution is unproven. It appears as a gigue in Saizenay 1, p. 9.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Balletto terzo from the 1637 additions to the first book of toccatas (1615). Further Italian influences on the French keyboard chaconne are pointed out in A. Silbiger, ‘The Roman Frescobaldi Tradition’, pp. 84–6. Silbiger suggests that the chaconne-passacaille may have been imported from Italy, perhaps by Luigi Rossi, who visited Paris in 1646–47 and who is possibly the ‘Louigi’ of Bauyn III. He is, however, incorrect in stating (n. 133) that there are no French lute settings of chaconnes and passacailles datable with certainty to the first half of the century. A rudimentary chaconne is in Herbert f. 47, and the chaconnes of Ennemond Gaultier must date from before 1651 when he died. In addition, a number of lute sarabandes of the 1630s are notably similar to later chaconnes in form and allure. Nor are the formal peculiarities of the French lute chaconne reflected in Italian keyboard examples, which are generally of the ground bass type.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    See preface.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    C. Palisca, Baroque Music (2/1981), p. 185Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    J. Jacquot, ‘Luth et clavecin français vers 1650’, pp. 137–8.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    See the section on ‘The new expressive harpsichord style’ in chapter I.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© David Ledbetter 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Ledbetter

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations