by Daniel Hathaway
The Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute faculty concert on Tuesday afternoon, June 20 featured flutist Michael Lynn, harpsichordist Mark Edwards, and gambist Rebecca Reed in recently-discovered works by Marin Marais and Michel de la Barre.
The pieces were drawn from a large collection of dance suites offered for sale at a book auction earlier this year in Paris. Lynn learned about it in an email from the auctioneer, who wrote that there was “something related to the flute” in the collection being sold.
“As it turned out there was only a single music book in a very large library of books described as being from the Chateau de Champagne, but it is a superb collection of the earliest traverso solo and duo music written and published in France,” Lynn said during a recent conversation in the Special Collections room at the Oberlin Conservatory Library prior to Tuesday’s concert. “The composers, de la Barre, Hotteterre, and Marais, were all employed by Louis XIV and the music is all from his lifetime.”
Lynn pointed out that works by Hotteterre, de la Barre, and Guatier already exist in “stunning” printed editions published from 1707-1711, but that this book was special. “Following the printed pieces is a long section of music for flute and bass (or basso continuo) by Marin Marais arranged mostly from Book II of his viol pieces. With one exception, these are all previously unknown works by Marais, including his only known works for flute and bass, as well as some pieces for two flutes.”
Lynn pounced on the opportunity to bid on the volume, and as luck would have it, was one of only two parties who were interested. “It was fortunate that this was a single musical volume in a collection of old books rather than in an auction lot of music books, which reduced the starting bid considerably,” Lynn said. “As you can imagine, this is quite an important discovery, and I feel incredibly lucky to have ended up with this ultra-rare and valuable volume.”
Lynn got together with retired Oberlin harpsichord professor Lisa Crawford several months ago and read and recorded a number of the pieces. “The BPI concert will include quite a few movements from the Marais section of the book, plus a wonderful sonata/suite by de la Barre which is also included in the volume, signed on the cover page by la Barre himself.”
Michael Lynn added that Catharina Meints and James Caldwell, who founded Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute, made Oberlin an important place to hear and learn about the music of Marin Marais. “This will be the first public performance of the Marais pieces — certainly the most important new Baroque flute repertoire to be discovered in many years. I am working on a modern edition which will be published by Alry in both Europe and the U.S.”
Holding an original music source in your bare hands is a powerful experience. This one is unique in that it employs several printing techniques (including the moveable music type invented by Petrucci, and copper engraving), binds external scores into the volume (making it something of an 18th-century musical scrapbook), and adds pages of blank staff paper that would allow its owner to enter new music by hand.
Even more moving was the opportunity to hear some of these pieces expertly and expressively performed by Lynn, Edwards, and Reed at the end of my visit. Click here to view the program with its amazing group photo of French composers of the time, and here to watch a video of the BPI faculty concert on June 20 (pictured).
Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 22, 2023.
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