- Antoine Forqueray, Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, Michel Forqueray, Nicolas-Gilles Forqueray ed. by Mary Cyr, and: Antoine Forqueray, Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, Michel Forqueray, Nicolas-Gilles Forqueray. ed. by Mary Cyr
Of the many influential musical dynasties in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Forquerays hold the unique honor of simultaneously embodying the pinnacle of virtuosic achievement on their instrument, the viola da gamba, while also witnessing the transition from that instrument’s artistic height to its fall into obsolescence within only two generations. The family’s two most famous members, Antoine Forqueray (1672–1745) and his son Jean-Baptiste (1699–1782), were both celebrated from childhood as virtuoso viol players, and both went on to hold positions as musicians in the Chambre du roy. Antoine was a younger contemporary of Marin Marais, his colleague and rival, and the Italianate characteristics of his playing have often been contrasted against the utterly French sensibilities of Marais. Jean-Baptiste enjoyed a successful career as a performer, teacher, and composer, during a period when the viol had begun to decline in popularity as the cello overtook it; he was among the musicians who premiered Telemann’s Paris Quartets, and was highly regarded by Johann Joachim Quantz and Michel Blavet. Jean-Baptiste also obtained a royal privilege to publish his father’s and his own pieces for viol, regarded by modern viol players as some of the most technically and harmonically challenging works in the instrument’s period repertoire.
This complete-works edition, published by Broude and edited by Mary Cyr, marks the first modern publication in score format of the Forquerays’ thirty-two Pièces de violes avec la basse continuë (originally published in one volume in 1747), which have previously been republished only in facsimile editions by Minkoff (1976), Performers’ Facsimiles (1985), and J. M. Fuzeau (1995), though a few excerpted movements have found their way into modern performing editions as arrangements for orchestra or solo cello. In addition to the five published suites of pieces for solo viol with basso continuo, the first volume of the set also comprises Antoine Forqueray’s pieces for three viols, and various solo instrumental works that exist only in manuscript sources. This latter group includes interesting variant versions of several works from manuscript sources in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Library of Congress, as well as two lute transcriptions by Robert de Visée (presented in facsimile and modern scores) from manuscripts in the Bibliothèque municipale in Besançon. Volume 2 in the complete-works edition contains [End Page 331] primarily works not for viol: the harpsichord transcriptions of the five suites of viol pieces also originally published in 1747 by Jean-Baptiste Forqueray; and six vocal airs attributed to a lesser-known relative, “Forcroy le Neveu.”
The critical commentary that opens the first volume provides a detailed and comprehensive history of the Forqueray family of musicians, from Antoine’s father Michel to the youngest nephew Nicolas-Gilles. Although interest in performing the Forquerays’ music was revived by members of the Dolmetsch family in the early years of the historically-informed performance movement, the landscape of scholarship relating to the Forquerays remains sparse. Only two historical monographs have been published since the start of the twentieth century: Louis Forqueray’s Musiciens d’autrefois: Les Forquerays et leur descendants (Paris: L. Fournier, 1911), based on family documents that have not been shared with outside...