terça-feira, setembro 23
This post is for my Manoela, who complained about my disappearance...
She is right, I have been absent from Mostly Music, as well as from my friend´s mailboxes. I am trying to write as much as I can - but only chapters for my doctoral dissertation. By the time the day ends, I am so sick of sitting in front of my computer that all I want is to watch some silly TV show.
But since my sweetie Ma is visiting the blog, she deserves a special kiss. Here, Ma, this is for you: KISS!
segunda-feira, setembro 22
Hurricane Isabel arrived last week with lots of wind and rain, though not for my part of the US. Alexandria, where my cousin Rob Veeder and his lovely spouse, Leslie, live, was flooded by the Potomac River - I haven't heard yet from them how they were affected. I was scheduled to play a concert at Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) on Saturday, and while it might have been possible to drive there by Friday, there was no electricity, due to the thousands of trees that were blown over. So we will reschedule.
On Sunday I visited with my friends Jen and Robert Bowen (Robert wrote a duo for Laura and me to play a few years ago; Jen (harpsichord) and I play together). They have a five-week old boy, Wesley, who looks healthy and happy, and slept for most of the time I was there. I brought them Wesley's first book, a copy of the classic Goodnight Moon, and will soon bring them some volumes from Merlin's library, as soon as Sarah retrieves them from storage in the eves.
High water in Alexandria
sexta-feira, setembro 12
Sarah Milburn, to whom I was married for 20 years,
was working, with two fellow political scientists, on a study of how to project political power using military force (sponsored by the Navy).
The work was done in 1998. Now it is being published by Lexington Books. You can read about it
The Sonnet of Arvers
By Paulo Rónai
Translated by Tom Moore
At first I thought the idea of devoting an entire book to a single poem was odd. Even if it were a poem which was tumultuous, full of mysteries, like Rimbaud’s Le bateau ivre, for which Augusto Meyers promises an exegesis in the near future, or a disturbing little poem, all made of implications, such as the “Prêto no Branco” which Lêdo Ivo used recently as the pretext for a spirited analysis of the art of Manuel Bandeira! But the “Sonnet of Arvers”, a little work that everyone knows by heart, and never posed any enigmas to the imagination! and which, moreover, can already be summed up by its first quatrain:
Mon âme a son secret, ma vie a son mystère:
Un amour eternal en un moment conçu;
Le mal est sans espoir, aussi j’ai dû le taire,
Et celle qui l’a fait n’en a jamais rien su.
Tant de bruit pour un sonnet! As I did not know the author, I had formed an erroneous idea of the book. And so I let it sit in the bookshelf for a long time without opening it, pointlessly delaying the pleasure which reading it would give me.
Mr. Melo Nóbrega, whose bibliography is not notable for its quantity, already dedicated a volume to the history of the river Tietê. His present objective, though it may seem insignificant in comparison with the previous one, encloses an unforeseen wealth of confluences and ramifications, which only a sagacious and cultivated spirit would be able to discover.
Above all else, his sense of measure is praiseworthy, a quality rare in authors of monographs, who are often inclined to overvalue the topic which has monopolized their attention for such a long time. Recognizing the mediocrity of the “king of sonnets”, he treats him rather as a phenomenon of literary life, and not as a pure esthetic product, and is principally interested in the problem of the survival of these fourteen isolated lines, unsupported by any other work by Arvers, a minor Romantic poet. He shows how, within them, a commonplace of poetry of every age, but especially of Romantic poetry, came to be expressed in a balanced form, directly and simply, free from Romantic exaggerations. With its genesis and literary fate explained, not only does the sonnet gain a panoramic perspective, but other perspectives open on the relation of the work of art to the life of the author, with critical reception, with the public, with posterity.
Drawing on vast erudition, but which never become heavy, being subordinated to the control of good taste, the chapters of this delicious study unfold, together offering a model of literary monography. We are first introduced to the environment in which the sonnet unfolded, the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal in the time of Chares Nodier, and we see the modest figure of Félix Arvers pass through, amidst contemporaries of the first rank, and sigh platonically for the muse of the salon, Nodier’s daughter. The sonnet appears, of limited originality, in the weave of which we see echoes and perhaps unconscious reminiscences of lines from earlier poets; its vicissitudes, the periodic neglect which envelops it, its successive rediscoveries are related with the finesse of one who always knows how to bring out the revealing or picturesque detail. The same selective spirit puts in order the allusions, replies, imitations and pastiches which the sonnet gave rise to, until in the final chapter Melo Nóbrega lingers over a critical examination of the most well-known of its innumerable Brazilian translations.
As the principal value of the study lies precisely in its bringing together small but meaningful details, it is impossible to summarize it. Particularly instructive are the data concerning the great number of misunderstandings which contributed toward the crystallization of its fragile but enduring glory. The love which inspired the sonnet was not one of those great romantic passions; the situation it describes (sentiment unknown to the woman who provoked it) did not correspond to reality; the reply circulated as being from the pitiless muse was nothing more than a pastiche; the artistic perfection of the verses is a myth, which vanishes upon deeper study. To sum up, everything about the sonnet is mediocre: the protagonists, the sentimento, the events – but, through a miracle unique in his otherwise insignificant work, Arvers brought together these elements in their culminating moment, this unique instant of poetry latent in the life of every person.
The extraordinary success of the sonnet in Brazil, where its translation became so to speak an obligatory test for poets, and the name of the poet a conventional rhyme for mulher (woman), suggests to the commentator some acute observations on the possibility of translating poetry in general, as well as the degree of approximation achieved by the various translators. It is interesting to note that this poem, so often translated into Portuguese, would seem rather to discourage this, since none of the rhymes, once translated, continues to rhyme. Those translators who hang on to any of them fail in their attempt: thus, for example, one who retains mistério at the end of the first line, through fidelity to mystère in the French, is then forced to rhyme it with cemitério, refrigério, etéreo, funéreo, sério, etc., words that involve a distortion of the meaning and compromise the discretion and moderation that are the chief values of the original.
Among the versions considered in the volume, that of D. Pedro II deserves special attention (happy age in which monarchs translated sonnets!), less for its esthetic value (“The translation by our benevolent Emperor does not add to his literary merit”), than for the fact that in the imperial translation none of the six verbs of the first strophe of the original are carried over:
Segrêdo d’alma, da existência arcano,
Eterno amor um instante concebido,
Mal sem esperança, oculto a ente humano,
E nunca de quem fe-lo, conhecido.
If this metamorphosis of six orations into a single exclamation is quite curious, there are other translations which are no less picturesque and unexpected. A cotejo of the best of them – of which Prof. Júlio Nogueira spiritedly tried to create a fusion – leads us to suppose that, at least in theory, there should be only one perfect translation into Portuguese which is possible, which remains to be achieved. There is, then no reason for translators to give up hope: the “Sonnet” of Arvers, with which we are already so saturated, is still waiting, in spite of the hundreds of attempts which have already been made, for its definitive incorporation into the lyric poetry of the Portuguese language.
To my mind, from this point on, its greatest merit, more than transmuting a sentimental truism into poetry, consists in having stimulated the appearance of this handsome essay, a true model for scholars who have decided to focus on isolated works of literature, especially for the future authors of doctoral dissertations. Melo Nóbrega has offered us the work of a true humanist.
quarta-feira, setembro 10
Translating the title
By Paulo Rónai
Translated by Tom Moore
Respect for the work being translated ought obviously to begin with the title. But this is precisely where we most frequently find changes. This is because, in this case, is not able to compensate later (as he so frequently must) for the insufficiency of the solution which has been chosen.The title is a unit which is complete in itself, and has to convey a message and make an impact in just a few words.
It can happen, however, that the exact translation of the title lacks euphony, is ambiguous or inexpressive, or doesn?t even make sense. In these cases, often at the publisher?s insistence, the translator partially or completely alters the title of the book.
It is obvious that one should retain the title of a classic work in its periodic retranslations. It is understandable: a label consecrated over dozens, hundreds, sometimes even thousands of years, such as the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Decameron, David Copperfield, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, is an element both identificador and qualificador at the same time, which one should not give up on. But not all titles are this simple. In the case of those which lend themselves to various interpretations, generally the first or one of the first translations tends to stick to the work inseparably: e.g. A Megera Domada and Sonho de uma Noite de Verão (Taming of the Shrew and A Midsummer-Night?s Dream), O Médico à Força and As Sabichonas (Le Médecin malgré lui and Les Femmes Savantes, by Moliere).
Much more frequent are title changes for modern works. Often books which became best-sellers in their countries of origin, especially in the U.S.A, thanks to violent publicity, retain their titles, especially when popularized through the cinema. But these are not always as expressive as The Exorcist, to give an example: sometimes their literal translation would be weak. I thought this was the reason for the retention, on the title page of the Portuguese edition of Love Story, of the English title; but later I learned, from an interview with the publisher, that this had been demanded by the author. When this is not the case, as with ?O Chefão?(The Big Boss), the advertising insists on identifying the translation with the original The Godfather (which was more literally translated as O Padrinho in Portugal).
There is a class of titles, which, even if faithfully translated, fatally lose their connotations in their passage into another language. These are those, generally directed to an intellectual readership, which include literary allusions or quotations. This is a phenomenon which occurs frequently in the Anglo-Saxon world. Steinbeck found the title In Dubious Battle in Milton, Burning Bright in Blake, Of Mice and Men in Burns, Grapes of Wrath in the Battle Hymn of the Republic, The Winter of Our Discontent in Shakespeare. Huxley found Eyeless in Gaza in Milton, Hemingway For Whom the Bell Tolls in John Donne. One who memorized passages from Macbeth in adolescence will find greater intensity in the words The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner) than the Portuguese reader will in the O Som e a Furia.
Sometimes ignorance of the source of the citation can make the title incomprehensible. Thus one needs to remember the Mallarmé sonnet ?Le Tombeau d?Edgar Poe? to understand what Duhamel wanted to express in the title of his novel Tel qu?en lui-même; and to recall ?Mon rêve familier?, by Verlaine, to understand the title chosen by Flora Groult for her novel Ni tout à fait la meme, ni tout à fait une autre.
In spite of being translated literally into Italian ? Le Parole per Dirlo ? the title of the novel by Marie Cardinal, Les Mots pour le Dire cannot suggest to Italian readers what it does to the French, that is, these two verses of Boileau in L?Art Poétique:
?Ce que l?on conçoit bien s?énonce clairement
Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément.?
(Foreign translators would find themselves in similar straits in attempting to translate certain of our books whose authors sought their titles in poems by Drummond: Os Inocentes do Leblon, Os Mortos de Sobrecasaca, O Anjo Torto, E agora, José?, etc.).
And so translators, more than once, have chosen to disrespect the original title of important works: Limbo, Antic Hay, and Mortal Coils, this last taken from Hamlet (all by Huxley) became respectively Felizmente para Sempre (Happily For Ever), Ronda Grotesca () and Vingança Pérfida (Perfidious Vengeance); To Have and Have Not, by Hemingway, became Uma Aventura na Jamaica (An Adventure in Jamaica).
It should not be assumed these modifications are a Brazilian specialty: Eyeless in Gaza (still recognizable in Brazil as Sem Olhos em Gaza) was rechristened La Paix des Profondeurs in French, and Mortal Coils renamed Cercle Vicieux. Many readers, even the non-French, who know the novel Darkness at Noon, by Koestler, under the title by which it became celebrated in the French translation, Le Zéro et L?Infini, must think that these are different works. One could find many more examples.
Another handicap are the titles which represent idiomatic expressions or turns of phrase in the original language, as for example Le Chemin des Ecoliers, by Marcel Aymé, or The Heart of the Matter, by Graham Greene. (Here the Brazilian translator fell into the trap by translating the title literally, rather than using the idiomatic ?O xis do problema? .
Not infrequently these changes are made without the knowledge or approval of the authors. The authors, who in general do not know the language into which their work is translated, rarely complain. But on occasion there are protests: Joseph Kessel disapproved, with good reason, of the metamorphosis of Belle de Jour into Luxúria (Lust) by the Brazilian translator. And Theodore Dreiser, had he been alive, would have to have protested against the transformation of Sister Carrie into Sou o Pecado (I am Sin).
Carlos Lacerda relates an interesting observation made by Léopold Sédar Senghor, the poet-stateman of Senegal, on the translation which was given to the title of Casa Grande & Senzala in the French edition: Maîtres et Esclaves, which, in his opinion, gives a false idea not only of the content of the book but of the social and inter-racial relations in colonial Brazil .
Of course there are also felicitous changes, producing expressions which seem spontaneous, with no whiff of transplantation: Anos de Ternura (The Green Years, by Cronin), O Menino do Dedo Verde (Tistou les Pouces Verts, by Maurice Druon), O Morro dos Ventos Uivantes (Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë), this last a formula that the Brazilian translator found in the ?Balada de Emily Brontë?, by Tasso da Silveira (but in Portugal the book was titled O Monte dos Vendavais). We will add Foguinho , a true inspiration on the part of Athos Damasceno Ferreira for Poil de Carotte, by Jules Renard, and Os Frutos da Terra, the happy rendition by Sérgio Millet of Gide?s Les Nourritures Terrestres.
Carlos Drummond de Andrade, translator of Thérèse Desqueyroux, by Mauriac, agreed, at the request of the publisher, to the title Uma Gota de Veneno (A Drop of Poison); in this case, one could argue the difficulty of reading and pronouncing the title of the original. Rachel Queiroz rendered Galsworthy?s Forsyte Saga, some time ago, as A Crônica dos Forsyte, because the word ?saga? was practically unknown in Brazil then.
I recall some problems that I had to face when I organized the Brazilian edition of the Comédie Humaine, by Balzac. How to translate Les Chouans, a local term that designated the rebellious peasants of Brittany, and recalled the call of the owl, which they used to communicate with each other? Happily, according to the practice of the historical novels of the day, there was a subtitle: ou la Bretagne em 1799, which became the principal and sole title: Bretanha em 1799 (Brittany in 1799). Another difficulty popped up with the title La Rabouilleuse, a professional and regional term, which indicates a ?girl who churns up the water of a stream in order to make the frightened crabs come to the surface.? Recently I discovered an Amazonian term which could translate the French word into Portuguese; but at that date it occurred neither to the translator nor to myself. Looking into the history of the novel, I then noted that the first edition in book form had the title Un Ménage de Garçon; and so I had recourse to Um Conchego de Solteirão (Bachelor?s Nook), which in fact had been used for an earlier edition in Portugal.
(Among the 89 works brought together in the Comédie Humaine, there were some titles, which, though faithfully translated, would not allow for easy identification: for example, O Romeiral, the Portuguese equivalent of La Grenadière. But since the prefaces to the volumes systematically listed the original titles, any doubt was eliminated, even without a concordance of the French and Brazilian titles at the end of the work.)
Sometimes a change is in fact a correction. Biessi, by Dostoyevsky, was translated into French as Les Possédés, taken into Portuguese as Os Possessos ; in a new translation, Rachel de Queiroz made a point of restoring to the work its true title: Os Demônios (The Demons).
There are cases in which the reason for the change is strikingly obvious. Chaines, by Howard Lee, became ?Acorrentados? (chained), because ?Correntes? (both ?chains? and ?currents?) would be ambiguous. The Eye, by Nabokov, and The Source by James A. Mitchener, were made more explicit by the same translator as O Olho Vigilante (The Watchful Eye) and A Fonte de Israel (The Source of Israel), respectively.
What to do, however, when there is intentional ambiguity in the original title? This is what happens in La Jalousie, by Robbe-Grillet. The word, in French, is ambiguous: it refers both to the jealousy of the suspicious husband, and the bamboo blind from which he spies his wife. The English translator proposed The Blind, also ambiguous, but according to Richard Howard, the publisher, ?fearing that the book would be taken for a treatise on ophthalmology?, preferred the translation Jealousy, for which it was later reproved by some critics.
In the cases in which the title, to the despair of the translator, is an intentional pun, not all are lucky enough to come up with a translation as ingenious as that of Oscar Mendes, who rendered the title of the Wilde comedy as A Importancia de Ser Prudente (with in Portugal, for Maria Isabel Morna Braga, become A Importância de Ser Amável).
Many think that a poorly chosen title can have an adverse effect on the ?fate? of a book. Günther W. Lorenz attributed the lack of impact in German-speaking countries of El Túnel, by Ernesto Sábato, to the infelicitous Der Mahler und das Fenster (The Painter and the Window). I imagine that the publisher wanted to avoid an exact translation because there was already a very successful German novel by that name, Bernhard Kellermann?s Der Tunnel. And on the other hand, a felicitous change can improve matters for the book, as happened in Brazil with a work by General de Gaulle, Vers l?Armée de Métier, an excessively technical title, which was replaced with the much more expressive ??And France would have won??
These are suppositions by the publisher or the translator, which are difficult to prove. At any rate, the belief in the importance of the title must be often be responsible for the adoption of more grandiose appellations, which speak better to the imagination of the reader. Thus King?s Row, by H. Bellamann, became Em cada Coração um Pecado (In Every Heart a Sin), Shannon?s Way, by A.J. Cronin, became Anos de Tormenta (Years of Torment), and Hauser?s Memory, by C. Siodmark, became Mémoria Assassina (Murderous Memory). With respect to this last title, my friend Roldão Simas Filho raises the objection that it spoils the surprise of the denouement, and so he prefers the variant used in Portugal, O Cérebro de Hauser (Hauser?s Brain).
Sometimes the changes can leave us baffled. Vidas Secas (Dry Lives) seems quite expressive: and yet the German publisher, without consulting the translator Willy Keller, changed it to Nach Eden ist weit (Long Road to Eden), thus improperly giving Graciliano?s book a Protestant, Faulknerian or Steinbeckian flavor. But another title by the same author, S. Bernardo, remained thus in German, though it means nothing for the German reader, or perhaps may even confuse him, leading him to think of the S. Bernardo Pass between Switzerland and Italy. (The Hungarian translator felt it necessary to give an idea of the content, in using Farkasmember (Wolfman).
In the same way, one could wonder at the fact that a dozen translators of different nationalities have used Dom Casmurro for the novel by Machado de Assis (only the Czech translator was bold enough to translate it), when a translation would have been relatively easy).
The partial reproduction of the title Grande Sertão: (Veredas) by the German, Italian and Castilian translators of Guimarães Rosa is more explicable, given the indefinability of the term.
A practical conclusion that could be drawn from all these examples is that it would be highly desirable for the practice, already adopted by some Brazilian publishers, of including the original title on the verso of the frontispiece, to become more widespread.
We have not spoken until now of the theater, where the replacement of one title by another which is more eye-catching is even more frequent than it is in the publishing houses, nor of the cinema, where it is more the rule than the exception, leading more than once to grotesque excesses, above all towards the horrific and the macabre. This arbitrariness sometimes results in a film failing to attract the public for which it is intended. Thus the film based on the magnificent novel by Ferenc Molnár, The Paul Street Boys, an authentic best-seller for children in Brazil as well as in Hungary passed by unnoticed because of a meaningless title: ?This Land Is Ours?. An examination of the original titles and their translations by the Brazilian film industry would make for amusing reading.
In conclusion: we do not mean to condemn title changes in totum. We would simply like to remind sensitive translators that the title is part of the work, and thus, except in special cases, it is better to retain it whenever possible. But if, for one reason or another, it should be altered, the original title should be noted on the poster, or, in the case of a book, on the verso of the title page.
domingo, setembro 7
Horrific new weapon
being developed by the US Department of Defense. It uses hafnium.
Read about it here.
I have been reading the three fantastical novels by Jasper Fforde. There are interesting stories and interviews about him and his work here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and
my dear friend Howard from college has been living in Germany (Munich) for the last 23 years. I visited him there in May 1991,
and he came to Cape Cod, where, with two other friends, we spent a week on a 24-foot sailboat. I had not seen him since, until yesterday, when he came to visit with his namorada, Barbara, who is German. We went for a walk by the canal, and then drove to New Hope, had a nice Mexican lunch, and walked over to River Horse Brewery (where Laura and Sergio have visited as well). Howard agreed with me that their "Hop Hazard" brew was excellent, and we both took six bottles home with us. I enjoyed meeting Barbara, and speaking German with the two of them. Verdict: my German is grammatically flawless...just slow. Nobody to speak it with here, and of course, no nice German pop music to listen to.
Ju and Ma
gave me a fita last year in April in Paraty. I made my three wishes. Yesterday the fita finally wore out.
My friend Alvin Figueroa from the College is a Quaker, a member of a Meeting in California, and has been attending at the small meeting in Rancocas (south of Trenton) where he lives. Now he has started attending my meeting (Crosswicks). Alvin is from Puerto Rico, and is on the language faculty at TCNJ. And we have a new family attending as well. Pedro is from Panama, and is married to an American woman. His father was an American who fell in love with a Panamanian woman, sold everything he had moved to Panama, married his beloved, and has been there ever since. So Pedro speaks English without an accent, Spanish (of course), and is also fluent in Portuguese. After the meeting Alvin, Pedro and I chatted in a melange of English, Spanish, and Portuguese until Pedro's wife (named Laura), dragged him away to go home with their children.
Last weekend (Aug. 30-31) I had a very nice visit with my cousin Rob and his wife Leslie in Alexandria, Virginia. I drove down Sat. AM (a quick trip in only a little over 3 hours, with no traffic or delays anywhere), we had a nice lunch, and then went into DC. The Spy museum was already full, so we went to the National Gallery (a wonderful show of late 19th century French "small" paintings) and then to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial, very beautiful and "unmonumental" with quotes from the great man. So different from what passes for public discourse nowadays. And then R and L cooked a fabulous dinner which we washed down with nice white wine, chatting late into the evening. Sunday I was working, so I had to drive back early.
quinta-feira, setembro 4
The local newspaper reported that a 24-year resident on the next block had been arrested for selling heroin in the street.
Complete Trio Sonatas for Recorder, Oboe and Continuo. Alfredo Bernardini, oboe; Lorenzo Cavasanti, recorder; Caroline Boersma, cello; Giorgio Mandolesi, bassoon; Sergio Ciomei, harpsichord; Monica Piccinini, soprano. STRADIVARIUS STR 33595 (59:10).
Trio sonatas: TWV 42: e6, F9, c7, a6, c2, F15. Ja, Jesu deinen ruhm zu mehren for soprano, recorder, oboe and continuo.
Telemann produced the largest and most rewarding body of work for the recorder, and it is land that has been well-tilled since the beginning of the early music revival (I remember a purchase of an LP about 1970 with especially disastrous recordings of these works), and since there have been notably fine recordings as well, it takes some chutzpah to go down these paths once again.
Bernardini (new to these ears) and Cavasanti manage to strike just the right tone for these works, which are in the thorough-going Italian style of the composer’s middle years, with little or no admixture of French. This is not deep or difficult music – to make it “go” the performers must bring out all the possibilities of expression and shape, so that it carries the listener along (in contrast to Bach, who is “performer-proof” to a degree). I am particularly taken by Bernardini’s playing – he has a beautifully controlled lyrical tone, so that he can give every note and phrase a shape that lives.
Soprano Piccinini fills out the disc with one of the cantatas from the continuation of the Harmonisches Gottedienst (points off: no source given, nor any text or translation).
A fine disc.
Flute Concertos. Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Rainer Kussmaul directing the Berliner Barock Solisten. EMI 7243 5 57397 2 8 (66:26).
Concerto for flute, strings and continuo in G, TWV 51:G2. Concerto for flute, violin, cello, strings and continuo from Tafelmusik, TWV 53:A2. Concerto for two flutes, violone, strings and continuo in A minor, TWV 53:a1. Concerto for flute, oboe d’amore, viola d’amore, strings and continuo in E, TWV 53:E1. Concerto for flute, strings and continuo in D, TWV 51:D2.
Though my colleague Laura Rónai has raved about this god of the flute, I have not had occasion to listen to his work until now. Often, though not always, the use of a modern instrument in older repertoire brings with it habits of expression, whether they be articulation (or the lack of it), the use of vibrato, a spinto tone, and so forth, so that what is inappropriate in the interpretation is not the use of anachronistic instruments, but the “software” that goes with them. And this is where Pahud shines most particularly. He has taken the lessons of the one-keyed flute to heart, playing with a mellow tone, a cantabile and naturally inflected line, and his articulations are clear and unforced. (Perhaps the next step is to move to the one-keyed flute?) Pahud’s ornamentation is also completely stylish, so much that so that one could imagine it came from the master’s pen (the page of the G major in the booklet allows the listener to compare what is written with what Pahud has created). The playing of the Barock Solisten is fine, if with a somewhat more modern tinge than Pahud.
The repertoire includes some familiar works (the Tafelmusik concerto, and the concerto for d’amore instruments), and also two premieres, the delicious G major concerto, and a double concerto (with the wonderful Jacques Zoon).
A highly recommendable disc.
Pieces de viole avec la basse continue, op. 2 (1737). Petr Wagner, viola da gamba; Jacques Ogg, harpsichord. DORIAN DOR-93246.
Charles Dollé is not well-known, even to the gambist. Little is known about the master, not even the dates of his birth and death, and he left six collections of chamber music, published between 1737 and 1754, one of which is lost. Of the rest all are either for viol or pardessus de viole (though the trios op.1 and solos/duos op. 4 mention violins or flutes as alternatives). Of the surviving works all but one set is available in facsimile.
Though this recording is listed as a world premiere, the second suite has been twice recorded already, by W. Kuijken (1979) and Hsu (1977). Though interest in the French Baroque has grown enormously in recent years, it says something about its reception by the public that such delightful and well-constructed music has waited so long to be recorded. To my ears (admittedly those of a convert) Dollé manages to blend learning (his often polyphonic writing for the solo viol) and charm (the fetching melodies and dance rhythms of the French tradition) in perfect proportions, so that neither intellect or foot feels left out. Petr Wagner’s playing is fluid, convincing, full in sound, yet aristocratic, cantabile, sensitively inflected, and he is capably partnered by Jacques Ogg. Good sound from Dorian. Warmly recommended.
Sonates op. 2. Trio Noname (Peter Holtslag, flute; Ketil Haugsand, harpsichord; Rainer Zipperling, viola da gamba, cello). GLISSANDO 779 035-2 (79:49).
Michel Blavet, despite his leading position in the flute world of late Baroque Paris, produced a small number of works – of which the two sets of six solos with continuo are the most notable (compare this his contemporary and friend Telemann, for example). They are relatively simple in style, combining Italian and French traits in the op. 2 set (1732), with Italian predominating in the later collection (op. 3, 1740). This accessibility, both musical and technical, has meant that these are among the most recorded of flute sonatas for this period, with at least five other available discs with some or all of op. 2 on the market.
Peter Holtslag has been a well-known and recorded performer on the recorder for some years, but to my knowledge this is his first outing on flute. In reviewing earlier discs I found his playing to be technically fluent and musical, but a little too cautious (in contrast to the general tendency for the recorder virtuoso to amp up the flamboyance to a dangerous level). And here as well he has fine command of his instruments (flutes by Allain-Dupré and Cameron at A-392), musical nuance – but something in me wishes for a little more danger, taking the curves faster than strictly legal or safe, some real digging for expression. There is more adventure to be had here than meets the ear. A capable reading, but not the ne plus ultra.
Daphnis & Chloe. Hervé Niquet directing Le Concert Spirituel. GLOSSA GCD 921605 (45:38, 55:44)
Boismortier, like Telemann, was pilloried by the critics for his enormous output, except that in the latter case, those throwing stones were twentieth-century contemporaries, and in the former, his French compatriots, perhaps envious of the fortune of a half-million écus, garnered through the sales of his works. The great preponderance of these were instrumental compositions, with a particular emphasis on the flute, then the preferred instrument of the gentleman amateur (would it were still so!). And thus Boismortier’s recorded presence in our day has been chiefly the chamber music.
Operas, then as now, were bottomless pits down which to pour money, and so Boismortier’s stage works are few and late. Daphnis et Chloe was the last to be produced, premiering in 1747, and revived in 1752. This pastoral was popular enough to be parodied when the revival appeared.
For one familiar with Boismortier’s small-scale works it is fascinating to hear how his muse responds to the stage. The aficionado’s ear will immediately compare the idiom to that of Rameau. Boismortier’s writing is considerably simpler, with little counterpoint, and melodies that are less “characteristic” than the immediately recognizable tunes of his greater colleague. The instrumental palate is also less varied, with the flutes playing a prominently role. Ne’ertheless, there is much to enjoy here, with the composer deftly connecting the musical strands in the larger fabric of scene and act. The singing and playing of Niquet’s band is first rate, and while you may not be drawn in by the drama, you can hardly fail to be captivated by the charms of the song and dance.