When spirits are low, the music of Jacques-Martin Hotteterre (1674-1763) is sure to raise them. Now the most celebrated member of a distinguished family of flute makers and players, he paid his way into the French royal court through his father’s well-rewarded success, and became ‘grand hautbois du roy’. In turn he passed the post on to his son, who married the daughter of the organist Balbastre.
Jacques-Martin may himself have made instruments as his ancestors did, but it was for his playing and composing that he was most esteemed in his own lifetime. Even taking into account the prolific output of his contemporary Boismortier, there is surely no more dazzling and uplifting Baroque music composed for the flute and recorder than the suites of Hotteterre which are presented here complete in new recordings, led by the Madrid-based musician Guillermo Peñalver: the sessions took place in the magnificent chapel of San Lorenzo in the city’s Escorial Palace.
Several quicker movements present the soloist with considerable technical challenges. The Allemande of the Third Suite appears to imitate waterfalls from the fountain in the gardens of Saint-Cloud through descending arpeggios. Yet the virtuosity is always lightly worn in Hotteterre, never written for the sake of sheer display but always to charm and delight the listener. Within the same suite is one of his most beautiful pieces, Le Plaintif; a simple rondeau with subtle, imperceptibly entangling ornamentation. In addition to the suites, Peñalver presents several brief flute solos, and then the two extraordinary Préludes in which Hotteterre sums up and condenses all of his skill, artistry and science. While nominally cast in D major and G minor, each of them moves through every key belonging to their respective scales in a remarkable feat of compositional ingenuity, introducing abundant changes of mood and character along the way: so much for the commonplace idea of the French Baroque as a polished idiom as orderly as the courtly etiquette which accompanied it.
Jacques-Martin Hotteterre was a virtuoso recorder player at the court of Louis XIV the Sun King, in the distinguished position of Musicien de la Chambre du Roi. He was a famous composer as well, mainly for his own instrument the flute, for which he wrote numerous works, in which he integrated Italian elements, such as instrumental brilliance and a prevalence for longer melodic lines, in the courtly French style of dance forms and lavish ornamentation.
Hotteterre expanded the flute repertoire in an extraordinary way with his more than 10 publications. The most relevant is his first work “Principes de la fl6ute traversière” (Paris 1707) which is the first published method for “Baroque” transverse flute, its influence was far reaching in 18-th century Europe and on composers after him.
This new recording contains Hotteterre’s complete output for flute and basso continuo, suites consisting of dance forms and sonatas. Brilliantly played on period instruments by Guillermo Peñalver (flute), Antonio Capillo (flute), Maria Saturno (viola da gamba) and Tony Millan (harpsichord) who already made a a highly acclaimed recording of harpsichord music by J.C.F. Fischer for Brilliant Classics.