The Philidor musical dynasty begins with André Danican Philidor (1652-1730), a musician and composer who played in many of Lully’s productions. Among several musical younger relations, Pierre Danican Philidor (1681-1731) was one of the most talented: a wind player like his uncle André but also a violist. In this capacity he joined the chamber du roi of the infant King Louis XV in 1715, where his colleagues included François Couperin and Marin Marais.
Little of Pierre’s music survives beyond these 12 suites, which were published in Paris in 1717 and 1718. Yet as he explains in his booklet introduction, Jed Wentz esteems them alongside the chamber music of Couperin and Marais, among the most significant precursors to the more florid output of the following generation exemplified by Michel Blavet and Jean Daniel Braun (who have also been the subject of critically acclaimed albums by Musica ad Rhenum). Philidor’s sophisticated harmonies compare favourably with the plainer, less adventurous rhetoric of the better-known Hotteterre and de la Barre.
If the artistic quarrels which took place at Louis’ court fiercely debated the value of Italian style as a cultural import, Philidor’s suites seem calculated to argue the case for the defence of native taste and values. The gentle spirit, highly wrought textures and manneristic elegance embody received ideas of French music, then and now. These ideas are understood and communicated with native fluency by the Dutch-based early music ensemble Musica ad Rhenum, who have made a specialty of lesser known music from the 18th-century French courts.
Critical praise for Musica ad Rhenum on Brilliant Classics:
CPE Bach, 94323: ‘I can’t imagine [these sonatas] being played with more aplomb or ensemble precision than Wentz and his partners.’ Gramophone
Boismortier, 95366: ‘while Wentz and Musica ad Rhenum play this music expressively and flexibly, at no point is the music overplayed or pulled out of shape… thoroughly enjoyable.’ Fanfare
Blavet, 93003: ‘Jed Wentz is a truly original artist, with a powerful traverso sound, and a musical personality that will not leave you indifferent. He plays with fierce enthusiasm, grabbing you by the ear, forcing you to listen.’ Fanfare
Ruppe, 96108: ‘Elegantly balanced performances. The Musica ad Rhenum, performing with historically accurate instruments, create a full, warm sound in line with the character of Ruppe’s music.’ wtju.net
The Danican Philidor family was a musical one, with close ties, spanning several generations, to the royal house of France. Several members of the family wrote music for wind instruments, including the newly fashionable flûte traversière.
This newly recorded 2-CD set contains the complete Suites for Flute and Basso Continuo by Pierre Danican Philidor. The twelve suites, published in three separate books, are partly for two flutes without bass and partly for flute solo and basso continuo.
Philidor's sophisticated harmonies and unusual turns of phrase make these works stand out against the beloved and beautiful, but less adventurous compositions of Jacques-Martin Hotteterre, Michel de la Barre or even Michel Pignolet de Montéclair. Moreover, Philidor's detailed notation of ornaments that were conventionally left to the player's discretion, like his (for us today) surprisingly frequent indications for vibrato (flattement), make these three books of suites a treasure trove for historically informed performers.
Performed by the prestigious Early Music group Musica ad Rhenum, whose leader and flute player Jed Wentz is a pioneer in the performance practice of notably French Baroque music for his instrument. His many recordings for Brilliant Classics (J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach, Blavet, Couperin, Boismortier, Braun, Roman) have established him as one of the foremost interpreters in this field. He is seconded by Cassandra Luckhardt (viola da gamba) and Michael Borgstede (harpsichord).