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G 12.044 CoverPierre Danican Philidor (1681–1731)
Two suites (op. 1/no. 2 and 4)

for 2 alto recorders and basso continuo
Edited by Ulrich Thieme
Realization of the thorough bass by Bernward Lohr

Girolamo G 12.044, score and 3 parts, € 24,00
ISMN 979-0-50084-064-0

sample page

G 12.043 G 12.045




Pierre Danican Philidor, who was born in Paris in 1681 and died in Versailles in 1731, was a member of the wide-spread Danican family of musicians and composers. Probably originally from Scotland (Duncan), the family had been awarded the name of Philidor by Louis XIII in 1620. Subsequent generations were also closely associated with the French court, both as composers and notably as woodwind players, serving in renowned royal institutions such as the Grande Écurie, the Chapelle and the Chambre du Roi. In 1725 Pierre's cousin Anne established the Concert spirituel series of concerts, in which Mozart was to perform in later years. Two further members of the family were well-known as musical librarians and chess masters, respectively.
Like other members of the family, Pierre, too, was in the royal service as flutist and oboist. His legacy of printed chamber music includes several suites for dessus et basse, i.e. for a treble part and basso continuo, and for two transverse flutes with and without b.c. His works for the stage, mostly pastoral in nature, are essentially considered lost today.

The Suites 2 and 4, published here in a new, practice-oriented edition, are from a collection comprising a total of six suites for two treble parts (dessus) and b.c. published in 1717. Three part-books kept in the Paris National Library, bearing the titles PREMIER DESSUS, SECOND DESSUS and BASSE, served as source.

Although the upper parts, designated merely as dessus in the source, may be played on any melodic instrument with a suitable tonal range, there is no doubt that they were intended by Philidor in the first instance for transverse flutes (the music never goes below d1, the lowest note on the baroque flute). Oboes can also be used, as can be a combination of flute and oboe.

In the present edition, the suites were transposed up a minor third to make them playable on treble recorders in line with customary practice. The figuring of the bass line was adapted to the new keys where necessary, even if it deviates from the melodic line of the upper parts in the source. The original placement of accidentals was adapted to present-day usage (an accidental usually applies only to the note in front of which it is placed). Beaming in the original source is inconsistent, frequently contradictory and does not suggest any musical intention. The use of beams was therefore rendered more consistent in accordance with present-day standards of musical notation. Titles of the movements and playing instructions are given with the original orthography. Some minor inconsistencies were also remedied. All additions made by the editor have been marked (only) in the full score.

When playing this music, which can be placed as far as style is concerned somewhere between the high-baroque pathos of Lully and the playful, Rococo-style flute music characteristic of the French late baroque period, the stylistic rules and conventions characteristic of the "French taste" should be observed. These are (now) well-known – and can be easily brought to mind by mentioning just a few key words: "notes inégales" (unequal notes), a manner of playing dotted notes appropriate to the affect of the respective music, including a musical presentation clearly characterizing the different dance movements.

Philidor's meticulous notation of ornaments reflects the importance of such agréments for the "tone" and spirit of his music. The ornamentation symbols are to be understood as follows:

Trill, starting with the upper auxiliary note.

Mordent, with one or more alternations, frequently preceded by a suspension from below.

Finger vibrato, which is of tremendous importance in French wind music. On the historic, mostly keyless instruments, including the present-day recorder, a note being played may be given a characteristic timbre by means of a trill-like movement of a "free finger" on or at the edge of a suitable finger hole.

Players should also bear in mind that the length of suspended notes, either notated or played in connection with a trill, is a variable means of expression, as is the duration and velocity of the trill itself.

Translation: Christa Lange-Rudd

Hanover, May 2019, Ulrich Thieme