Hanoverian Ensemble


Lous XV



"...well-written notes...well-crafted and beautiful suites...John Solum and Richard Wyton, two extraordinary musicians I have praised in the past, are the ideal performers for this music. Their phrasing, articulation, and overall graceful approach make this music sparkle and sing. There is never a dull moment. Flutists with limited knowledge of this period should find this, and anyone who enjoys elegant music play with style will enjoy it"
American Record Guide ~ November / December 2007

"....delightfully played by John Solum and Richard Wyton...The music is lovely...Highly recommended to flute enthusiasts."
Turok's Choice ~ December 2007




Louis XV was born in 1710 in Versailles. In 1715 at the age of five he succeeded to the throne of France upon the death of his great-grandfather, Louis XIV. He inherited a court notable for its brilliant accomplishments in the arts and literature. A distinct musical style had evolved at Louis XIV’s court, principally developed by such composers as Lully, Marais and Lalande. Charpentier, working outside of the court, also contributed to the style. Among the musicians and composers at Louis XIV’s court who continued to work under Louis XV was the flutist, Michel de la Barre (c.1675-1745).

About the time of La Barre’s birth, the transverse flute underwent two important changes. Before then, the flute had a cylindrical bore and had no keys (levers) to close holes beyond the reach of the fingers. However, around 1670 flute-makers in France as well in the Netherlands added a key, thus enabling the flute for the first time to play every note of the chromatic scale. At the same time the interior bore was redesigned from a cylindrical shape to conical (tapering from the head to the foot of the flute), thus increasing tonal power and improving intonation. This flute we now call the Baroque flute.

Much of the music which La Barre composed was for the Baroque transverse flute. Moreover, he is given credit for having published the first solo flute music for this newly-designed flute. In 1702 Christophe Ballard printed La Barre’s Opus 4, Pieces pour la flute traversiere avec la basse-continue, containing five suites. These are the first solo works published anywhere for the new one-keyed conical flute. La Barre was fully aware of his achievement; in the introduction to the Opus 4 publication, he states that these pieces are the first to appear for that kind of flute. La Barre may thus be regarded as a seminal figure of the modern flute repertoire.
La Barre was a member of the king’s chamber music (Chambre du Roy) and under Louis XIV had also played in the Academie Royale de Musique. In fulfilling his interest in composition, he wrote instrumental trios, suites for flute and continuo, original vocal airs, and two works for the stage. However, it was as a composer of flute duets that he excelled. From 1709 until 1725, he published a total of 19 multi-movement duets for two flutes. Nine of these duets appeared in the years 1709-14 under the reign of Louis XIV and, following a hiatus of seven years, the remaining ten were published 1721-25 during the Regency and subsequent reign of Louis XV. It is these latter ten which are recorded here for the first time. Probably not all of the ten duets published 1721-25 were composed during those four years. It is unlikely that La Barre ceased composing just because of the death of Louis XIV. Publication dates may not necessarily be the same as composition dates.

When these ten duets were published, Louis XV was between the ages of eleven and fifteen. Some notable personal events occurred to him during these years. In October of 1722, he was officially crowned. On his 13th birthday, February 15, 1723, he attained his legal majority, and the Regency under Philippe d’Orleans was dissolved. In September of 1725 at age 15, Louis XV was married to Maria, daughter of the exiled King of Poland. Young Louis was indeed off to a precocious start.

Although La Barre’s flutist-colleague, Jacques Hotteterre le Romain, was the first in France to publish duets for a pair of unaccompanied flutes (Le Fargis and a rondeau, Le Champestre, 1708), it was La Barre who most thoroughly explored the possibilities of two flutes without accompaniment and who truly established the genre. His first three suites for two flutes (1709, 1710, 1711) each contain eight movements. Commencing with his fourth suite in 1711, all of his duets for two flutes are in four movements. The four-movement suites continue the tradition of combining abstract movements such as prelude, fugue, rondeau, fantaisie and caprice with dance movements such as gigue, gavotte, rigaudon and allemande. Of the ten duets of 1721-25, eight are called suites and the two in the 9th book are called sonates. These sonates are virtually identical in format and style to the suites. Why would La Barre call them sonates? Each of the eight suites is in a different key. The sonates are in duplicate keys (B-flat major and G major) to two of the suites. Perhaps La Barre designated them as sonates to distinguish them from these suites.

La Barre’s ten duets of 1721-25 explore a wealth of musical ideas. Consisting of short movements which are mostly in binary form, they are written with consummate assurance and skill. His melodies are well-conceived and his handling of harmony fully mature. An example of his musical sophistication is that a number of movements begin with rare five-bar themes: the Gigue of the 1st Sonate in B-flat major, the Rigaudon of the C major Suite, the Prelude of the Suite in B minor. The 1st Rondeau of the Suite 21 in D major begins with a seven-bar theme. Less accomplished composers would be satisfied with standard four- and eight-bar themes. The duets also ably demonstrate La Barre’s thorough understanding of the special sonic characteristics of two flutes playing simultaneously.

The performers on this recording play on replicas of flutes which are historically appropriate for the 1720s in France. John Solum plays on Friedrich von Huene’s copy of an Hotteterre boxwood and ivory flute. Richard Wyton plays on a boxwood and ivory replica of a Chevalier flute made by Thomas Prescott. Both flutes are pitched at about A-392, which is today called French pitch, appropriate for this music. Modern pitch is about a whole tone above this pitch. The flutists based this recording on an original first-edition of the printed music, owned by Solum. This includes the only surviving copy of La Barre’s 11th Book of 1724 containing the 18th and 19th suites.