ABSTRACT

Jean-Baptiste Forqueray’s Pieces de viole avec la Basse Continuë (Paris, [1747]; see Figure 12.1) occupies a unique position in the viol repertoire: it comes near the end of a long tradition of French solo viol music and also challenges the player in entirely novel ways.1 Also in 1747, Forqueray published a second collection entitled Pieces de viole … Mises en Pieces de clavecin, consisting of the same five suites of the first collection transcribed for solo harpsichord.2 The music in these two collections is challenging, not only because of its technical demands on the players, but also because the viol print in particular contains a myriad of symbols, musical notation that is cramped and small, and numerous errors. The music itself presents significant interpretive challenges too, and, perhaps most puzzling of all, there are uncertainties regarding the music’s attribution that remain unresolved. In this profile, I investigate the background to Jean-Baptiste Forqueray’s decision to publish the two prints and what if any responsibility his father, Antoine Forqueray, may have had as composer of the music. I also investigate two alternative performance possibilities: as solos for the pardessus de viole and as accompanied keyboard music with the basse de viole. Examination of the meaning behind some of Jean-Baptiste’s idiosyncratic notations and symbols helps us to approach the technical challenges posed by the music. The reputation of the two ForqueraysAntoine and Jean-Baptiste-as viol players was unequalled, but their lives were also characterized by extraordinary circumstances that bear on the music they composed and performed. Some of these circumstances may also bear on our attempt to discover who is responsible for composing the music.