9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Antique Graces in Vogue: Free Ornamentation in the Instrumental doubles of Montéclair

Charles Gower Price

Shortly after forming a Parisian publishing enterprise in 1721 with his nephew, François Boivin, Montéclair issued three collections of music for transverse flute (or alternate melody instrument) that include doubles recalling styles of improvised graces that had been popular over a generation earlier. One collection titled Brunètes anciènes et modernes contains suites for either two flutes or flute and bass, a second six concerts for two unaccompanied flutes, and a third six concerts for flute and basso continuo. These publications are well suited to please the renewed aristocratic taste for the tendre and galant following the sober closing years of the reign of Louis XIV.

Montéclair’s instrumental doubles fall into two distinct categories: first, the rhythmically varied free graces in the style of the seventeenth-century vocal doubles of the air de cour, and secondly, the simple division variation of a bipartite dance movement in which the rhythmic values of the melody are consistently halved. Significantly, elements of these ornamental styles can be observed transferred into some of the titled character pieces that are also found in these collections. Such evocations of older styles reflects the vogue during the Regency for the native French sensibilities of the past in the face of pervasive Italian influence, and they also provide a link with the closing phase of an earlier practice of vocal and instrumental improvisation in seventeenth-century France.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita