By Jeffrey Bossin
Cheap Imitation or The
many decades carillonneurs have entertained their audiences with
of the charming Gigue in C major No. 96 from the carillon book of
Gruytters. The work came to light with the discovery of the book at the
beginning of the 20th century and was popularized by the modern
Leen 't Hart and Jo Haazen, who, as director of the Nederlandse
and the Koninklijke Beiaardschool "Jef Denyn" respectively, will have
recommended and taught this piece to many of their students. Yet in all
time noone seems to have questioned De Gruytters' attribution of it to
(François) Couperin, known because of his 27 suites of
printed in Paris between 1713 and 1730 and his position as
the French court as "Le Grand". It doesn't seem unreasonable to
assume that such a prolific composer of keyboard music might have
piece in the De Gruytters book as well, especially since De Gruytters
actually arrange five of Couperin's genuine works: Réveil-Matin from the fourth suite for the automatic
Antwerp cathedral and La Bourbonnoise from the first, La Babet
from the second, Les Vendangeuses from
the fifth, and Les Bergeries from
the sixth suites for his carillon book.[i]
Yet De Gruytters gigue No. 96 is not to be found anywhere among
Couperin's works.[ii] Why
did De Gruytters attribute it to him?
He must have acquired a copy with the composer's name on it. Such manuscripts were however notorious for their errors: as Handel complained in the preface of his first set of harpsichord suites printed in London in 1720: "I have been obliged to publish Some of the following lessons because surreptitious and, uncorrect copies of them had got abroad."[iii] Little known composers eager to sell their music were sometimes more than willing to pawn them off as the work of the famous in order to convince a musician that he was buying a high quality product or a publisher that he would make a handsome profit from the sales. The so-called Jena Symphony, a German manuscript with the name of Beethoven on it, was considered a previously unknown work of the master's until a copy attributed to Friedrich Witt surfaced. That decided the matter for, though anyone could write Beethoven on a piece, the only reason for such a minor musician as Witt to put his name to it was that he actually composed it.
A couple of years ago a German claimed to have found a number of Joseph Haydn's missing piano sonatas which until then had only been known in the form of the beginning measures of each piece included in the composer's own list of his works. In spite of the fact that the watermarks and paper of the originals could not be examined because only fotocopies were available, the shape of the eighth notes corresponded to those in 19th-century Italian manuscripts rather than 18th-century Austrian ones, and the handwriting used for the music was identical to that used to write the catalogue number supposedly added when the manuscript was said to have been acquired by a library, the internationally renowned Haydn scholar and author of an extensive and detailled five-volume biography of the composer, H.C. Robbins Landon, immediatedly proclaimed the pieces to be genuine. His colleague Paul Badura-Skoda, pianist and specialist on the music of the Viennese classical period, accepted Robbins Landon's pronouncement with such enthusiasm that he quickly made a recording of the newly discovered works. Only when the German refused to hand over the original manuscripts for closer examination, claiming these were in the attic of an old woman whose frail state of health did not permit any intrusions, did the two scholars finally realize they had been duped: the German had simply used the beginning measures of each piece to forge clever imitations of Haydn sonatas. As is usually the case, rather than questioning information, people willingly adopt it.
De Gruytters, although as a keyboard player and violinist at Antwerp Cathedral well acquainted with Couperin's style of composition and able to compare it with a wide range of music, accepted the attribution of the C major Gigue to Couperin from what could only have been a dubious source, Jo Haazen and Leen 't Hart adopted it from De Gruytters, and other carillonneurs in turn from them. Judging from current concert programs, most people have still not thought to look for the original version of the piece in Couperin's keyboard music even though it has been accessible in several editions since 1862 and an edition of his complete works was published in 1932 and 1933. So if not Couperin, who then actually did write Gigue No. 96?
The Couperin Clan
Could it have been one of the other numerous members of the Couperin family such as Louis Couperin (1626-1661), his two brothers Charles (1638-1679) and François (1630- sometime after 1708, uncle of François "Le Grand"), the latters' son Nicolas (1680-1748), Marie-Madeleine (1690-1742), daughter of François "Le Grand", or Nicolas' son Armand-Louis (1727-1789), all organists? François was also a harpsichord teacher, Charles' daughter Marguerite-Louise (1676 or 1679-1728) a harpsichordist and singer, Armand-Louis a harpsichordist as well, and Marguerite-Antoinette (1705- about 1778) even succeeded her father François "Le Grand" as harpsichordist at the court of Louis XV. Yet although Marguerite-Louise was once called "one of the most celebrated musicians of our time, who sang with admirable taste and who played the harpsichord perfectly", no works of hers or of Charles, Marguerite-Antoinette or Marie-Madeleine have yet been found or are indeed ever likely to be discovered. Marguerite-Antoinette apparently had her hands full teaching the king's two daughters, and life as organist at the convent of Maubuisson kept Marie-Madeleine's mind focused on more spiritual matters. François the elder was an excellent teacher but apparently more intent on enjoying life than on composing; a note on a copy of his nephew's pieces calls him "a great musician and a great drunk." Only one work by Nicolas has yet come to light, and it was not a keyboard piece but a four-voice motet. Louis Couperin's presently known 134 keyboard works do not include De Gruytters' little gigue. Armand-Louis, a modest and pleasantly-natured man killed in a traffic accident while hurrying to a funeral in 1789 and dying just in time to be spared the horrors of the French Revolution, also wrote several compositions, but his earliest pieces were published in 1751, five years after De Gruytters finished his book.
Dancing Italian Gigues With Cold Feet
Since the De Gruytters gigue is not
among any of the extant
compositions by the many Couperins, stylistic comparison may provide
its origins. A cursory glance reveals it to be an Italian-style gigue,
piece in a quick tempo usually in 6/8 or 12/8 or very occasionally in
meter and with a texture of running triplets, melodies using chordal
figuration, sequences of motives, and leaps typical of violin music,
simple bass providing harmonic support.[iv] The
composers of the older generation such as Bach, Handel, and Reincken
versions. The Italian gigue developed from the English and Irish jigs
appeared in English instrumental music at the beginning of the 17th
was brought to Paris around 1635 by the English court lutenist Jacques
who, together with his fellow lutenists Denis and Ennemont Gaultier,
French-style gigue with dotted rhythms and imitative entries
absorbed into the French keyboard suite starting around 1670. By some
still unclear, the gigue also entered Italian instrumental music as the
movement of the sonata da chiesa and canzone, most notably in the works
Giovanni Battista Vitali and Archangelo Corelli such as the latter's
Sonatas Op.4 (1694). It was soon adopted by a number of other Italian
composers, most notably by Giovanni Maria Bononcini, Domenico
Giuseppe Tartini, Antonio Veracini, Antonio Vivaldi, and Domenico
spread throughout Europe as part of the new style of Italian and French
instrumental music which arose towards the close of the 17th century
sweeping across the continent in the following decades.
The composers most closely associated with this new music were Archangelo Corelli in Rome, Giuseppi Torelli in Bologna, Antonio Vivaldi in Venice, and Giuseppi Tartini in Padua, who created and established the concerto grosso and concerto, Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples and Giovanni Battista Sammartini in Milan, who were important in developing the opera ouverture and symphony, Jean-Philippe Rameau and François Couperin in Paris as the chief exponents of French opera and ballet music and the French keyboard suite respectively, and Pietro Locatelli in Amsterdam, Domenico Scarlatti in Madrid, and George Frideric Handel in London, prominent writers of violin, of keyboard, and of violin, keyboard, and orchestral music respectively. Vivaldi alone composed around 500 concertos, nearly half of them for the violin, 93 sonatas and trios, and 61 symphonies and ripieno concertos, and Tartini wrote at least 135 violin concertos and 160 violin sonatas. Manuscripts of this music were disseminated throughout Europe; copies of Vivaldi's works reached Dresden by 1717 and were soon influencing German composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, who arranged six of the violin concertos for solo harpsichord. The most popular pieces also appeared in print in London, Paris, and Amsterdam, among them Vivaldi's violin concertos and concerti grossi L'estro armonico Op.3 (Amsterdam 1711 and London 1715), Corelli's Concerti Grossi Op.6 (Amsterdam 1714), and 24 of Tartini's violin concertos (Amsterdam between 1728 and 1733). Corelli's Op.6 was an immediate success at its performance in London in 1724 and was followed among others by Geminiani's Concerti Grossi Op.2 and Op.3 in 1732 and 1733, and Handel's Op.6 in 1739. The new French and Italian instrumental music was soon being played throughout Europe by court and opera orchestras, church and chamber ensembles, and by aristocrats, professional musicians, and dilettantes of every nationality.[v]
[i] Les Bergeries was so popular in the 18th century that Johann Sebastian Bach copied it into the book of piano music he compiled in 1725 for his wife Anna Magdalena, De Gruytters set it on the automatic of the Antwerp cathedral carillon, it was a prescribed test piece for those applying for the position of carillonneur in Louvain in 1745, and was included in the Louvain carillon books written between 1755 and 1760 and André Dupont's carillon book of 1785.
[ii] See Kenneth Gilbert (ed.), François Couperin, Ouevres complètes, vols.1-5, Monaco, 1980-1995.
[iii] Terence Best (ed.), Hallische Händel-Ausgabe (Critical Complete Edition), issued by the Georg-Friedrich-Händel-Gesellschaft, Series IV, Instrumentalmusik, vol.1: Klavierwerke I, Halle, 1974.
[iv] For examples of Italian gigues see the following keyboard works: Domenico Zipoli, Sonate d'Intavolatura per Organo e Cimbalo, Suites Nos. 2 in G minor and 3 in C major (Rome 1716), Giuseppe Tartini, Sonata for Violin and Basso Continuo Op.1 No. 6 in D major (Amsterdam 1734), Lodovico Giustini di Pistoia, Sonate da Cimbalo di piano, e forte.... (the first music written for his newly invented piano e forte), Sonatas Nos. 2 in C minor, 4 in E minor, 6 in B-flat major, 8 in A major, and 12 in G major (Florence 1739), Giovanni Battista Pescetti, Sonatas Nos. 2 in D major and 3 in G minor (London 1739), and Giovanni Platti, Sonata Op.1 No. 3 in F major (Nürnberg ca. 1742). Domenico Scarlatti's Sonatas in E major K. 531, G major K. 477, and F major K. 78 are only a few among his many in the form of Italian gigues.
[v] For more information on the influence of French and Italian instrumental music on the carillon music of the period see my article Jeffery Bossin, Musik für Carillon 1600-1900. Die Suche nach einem verschollenen Repertoire, in Kurt Kramer and Hartwig Niemann (ed.), Glocken in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Karlsruhe 1997, slightly amended version in Günter Fleischhauer, Monika Lustig, Wolfgang Ruf und Frieder Zschoch (ed.), Glocken und Glockenspiele, Michaelsteiner Konferenzberichte 56, Michaelstein, 1998.
© Jeffrey Bossin