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Jean-Féry Rebel: Les Caractères de la Danse - La Terpsichore

Les Caractères de la Danse - La Terpsichore. Rebel, Jean-Féry


Les Caractères de la Danse - La Terpsichore


Jean-Féry Rebel  (1661 - 1747)

Editeur Anne Fuzeau Classique
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Les Caractères de la Danse :

Dona Borel’s preface discusses the typical bow strokes for these dances, according to French XVIIIth century theoretical works dealing with the subject. This is an extremely useful addition to our edition.

Les Caractères de la Danse, a fantasy published in 1715, was an immediate success. Its composition is both original and unique: ten French dances linked together and therefore to be played as a whole ; two short movements of an Italianate sonata are inserted at the end of the work. This work was originally designed for dancing and the best French dancers of the period performed it: for example, Mademoiselle Sallé or la Camargo. In Paris it was danced at the Académie Royale de Musique (Opéra), at the Théâtre Italien or the Comédie Française, but was also performed abroad.

How many performers can be used? Although noted for reduced numbers, the score published here is clearly conceived for an orchestra: solo flute with bass played by the violins (note the plural) in the sarabande, - gigue and gavotte played by the violins – two oboe parts accompanied by the bassoons in the passepied – and especially the top part of the musette played by the oboes and the second part by the violins. It is therefore obvious that there were several violins, several oboes and several bassoons for each of these parts. The published score could eventually be completed by the addition of intermediate parts. The separate parts held in Agen - which are believed to have come from Dresden - confirm the notion of orchestration, without it being certain that these parts are copied from the composer’s original material, as the latter has not come down to us. The published score could be completed by the addition of intermediate parts. However the present score could be played as it stands in chamber music formation for small numbers: 2 violins, one flute, 2 oboes and continuo bass with cello or viol and a bassoon, and harmonic realization by the harpsichord.

The pedagogical aspect of the work. Les Caractères de la danse is of undeniable pedagogical interest to present-day musicians. Each dance presents a typical theme and the tempi are standard. The fact of linking up the dances implies complete mastery of each tempo and character. Chamber music formation enables this work to be used as first-rate teaching material.

Tempi. The tempo of each dance at the time the work was composed should be noted, also taking into account the time signatures: Prélude, three rather slow beats (inégale quavers will enliven the piece) Bourrée, two fast beats Chaconne, three moderate beats Sarabande, two slow beats Gigue, two fast beats, but not excessively fast Rigaudon, two fast beats Passepied, 3 fast beats (to be played one-to-the bar) Gavotte, two moderate beats Loure, two ponderous beats Musette, two moderate, graceful beats The two sonata incursions are “loud and fast” (the composer’s indications)

This work uses only related keys with no great harmonic surprises – the interest of the work lies elsewhere.

Editions Two editions of the original appeared: one dating from 1715, the other, reproduced here, is of later date (after 1728), although it still bears the date 1715. When the first edition was printed, Jean-Féry Rebel was living in the present-day rue des Petits-Champs, at the corner of rue Sainte-Anne. The second edition finds him rue Saint-Vincent, a part of the present-day rue Saint Roch, between rue de Rivoli and rue Saint-Honoré.

La Terpsichore :

We have combined in this edition Les Caractères de la Danse and La Terpsichore, since the latter was the ancient goddess of dance. In addition, La Terpsichore, which also links several movements, includes two siciliennes, a form which does not appear in Les Caractères de la Danse. Furthermore, La Terpsichore contains a gigue entitled L’Angloise, which is in fact a typically Italianate gigue, whereas those of Les Caractères de la Danse are typically French. These scores are therefore complementary.