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The Consort

John Collins

Volume 66, Summer 2010

Charles Dieupart
Three Suites for harpsichord
Edition HH079.SOL, Bicester 2009
(pbk £15)
ISMN 979 0 708059 90 5

Andrew Woolley has here edited three suites for harpsichord by Dieupart, taken from two manuscript compilations. Charles Dieupart (c1667-c1740), a Frenchman, was one of several Europeans who settled in London in the early 1700s; he was a composer, violinist and keyboard player, who wrote and arranged music for various plays and entertainments. Dieupart's set of Six Suites de Claveçin, each in six movements, was published in 1701 in Amsterdam by Roger; they may have formed the models for J S Bach's English Suites. However, the evolution of Dieupart's Suites de Claveçin is somewhat complex: an edition of Dieupart's suites by Walsh of London (c1705) contains only the first of the suites published by Roger minus its ouverture, three movements from suite no.2 and two movements each from suites nos.3 and 4. Copies of the suites exist in the hands of J S Bach and Walther, based on Roger's print, and the two manuscripts described below offer a further selection of pieces, from which the three suites published here have been taken.

To complicate matters still further, MS743 in the Minorite Convent, Vienna, contains six anonymous suites, of which those in E minor and F major (included here by Woolley) are variants of the suites in these keys by Dieupart which are included in Roger's print. A further source for Dieupart's suites is the voluminous MS39569 in the British Library, compiled in 1702 by Charles Babel, another Frenchman who lived in England from about 1697. This remarkable manuscript contains a wealth of European harpsichord music organised into no fewer than 29 suites, including four by Dieupart, which are also found in Roger's print in variant versions. Three further pieces in Babel's manuscript which are not printed by Roger are also edited here by Woolley, including two minuets, and a gavotte with its double.

Woolley also includes a fine set of pieces in E major taken from Babel's manuscript, comprising an ouverture (the second section of which is in common time), allemande, courante (a transposed version of the one in F in Roger's print), sarabande and gavotte; Woolley provides compelling reasons for considering this set to be composed by Dieupart. Because the set lacks a rondeau and gigue, these movements from the F major suite in the Vienna manuscript (also included in this volume), have been transposed in order to complete the suite.

These pieces provide a welcome addition to the 17th-century keyboard repertoire; they are not overly difficult to play, apart from the gigues in E and F which have some tricky hand shifts, but practice is required to integrate the ornaments. The music is presented in landscape format with ring binding, the printing is clear and in quite large type, with three systems to a page.

Andrew Woolley gives a concise explanation of his criteria for selecting these pieces, and a most readable account of the form of the pieces. His comments on ornamentation, notation and performance practice will repay careful reading; his critical commentary is thoroughly cross-referenced. However, at £15 for only 22 pieces (of which two are transpositions of pieces found elsewhere in the volume, and only twelve are newly published) covering 30 pages of music, this volume is on the expensive side for many players; it is a pity, perhaps, that more of the music from the other four suites in the Viennese manuscript, which may also be by Dieupart, were not also included.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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