La Follia Itinerante: Baroque Street Music for Two Hurdy-Gurdies and Violin
First played at the 11th Cent. court of Alfonso el Sabio, king of Galicia (in what is now the northwest of Spain), the Hurdy-Gurdy had by the 14th Century spread to nearly all of Europe. During the Middle Ages the Hurdy-Gurdy was a respected instrument played by angels in heaven and by kings and nobles to accompany their courtly love poems.
During the Renaissance the Hury-Gurdy fell from grace and became an instrument played by shepherds and wandering, often blind, beggars. Despite being so low in stature, visual artists such as George de la Tour, recognized the inner nobility of these poor itinerant players and portrayed them on canvas with sympathy and pathos.
At the end of the 17th Century, intellectual and artistic fashion discovered the simple virtues of the bucolic and pastoral life of an imagined Golden Age. The Hurdy-Gurdy once more enjoyed wide-spread popularity and could be heard not only in the streets, but also in taverns, theaters and dance halls. In France the Hurdy-Gurdy was again played by the nobles and gentry including many women musicians, and was an indispensible part of any fete-gallant (romantic pique-niques).
The 18th Century saw elegant Baroque court music and the less refined but more natural popular music of town and country grow closer both in content and audience. In Paris and London a new type of musical theater sprang up, influenced by the Italian Commedia troupes that had made their way north to Paris and beyond. First performed in markets and fairs, these Ballad Operas and comédies mêlée d’ariettes used traditional melodies to enliven these fanciful and bawdy plays. The Hurdy-Gurdy, accompanied by a second hurdy-gurdy, violin or bagpipes (musette), played an important part of these theatrical events.
Joined by their son Julien Heller on violin, Donald and Anicét Heller present, for your pleasure, this repertoire: the popular music of London, Paris and Venice of the 1700s. The French melodies were all published by the composers themselves in Paris before 1760. They include Chédeville, Delavigne, Hotteterre and Dupuits. The English melodies on this CD are both taken from Mr. D’Urfey’s Pills to Purge Melancholy published in London in 1703. The Venetian melodies come from a manual on dance for the Italian Commedia, Neue und Curieuse Thatalischer Tantz-Schul published by Gregorio Lambrantzi, a well known theater and dance instructor from Venice, in Nüremburg in 1716.
La Follia, also known as Les Follies d'Espagne and Faronel's Ground, is a proud and anguished melody that is played above a pulsing bass line, and is then followed by sets of variations, or couplets. More than three hundred composers have created their own interpretation of La Follia, a tradition that began four hundred years ago and continues to this day.
The last track is a Follia and gives the CD its name:
La Follia Itinerante: the itinerant madness, der Fahrende Wahnsinn. It is that moment in time and place when the soul catches a slow motion glimpse of itself traveling willy-nilly through the maelstrom of the great vortex. At once noble and base, it is coloured in a chromatic blue melancholy and dry red pathos. There too is the peace that comes with acceptance of one’s fate…and the anguished impossibility of not struggling against this same fate…la Follia Itinerante holds up a mirror that we may see our selves as we really are: beggars naked before God. And makes us laugh at our own pitiful and ludicrous condition. A true Follia is unique at each playing. It exists for a moment and then vanishes. This one was caught on a warm and sunny afternoon in a garden house on the southern slopes of the Schwarzwald. It takes as inspiration the Follias of Nicholas Chédeville, Corelli, Vivaldi, Marais and the many other composers, known and unknown, who have added to our treasure store of Follias.
Donald and Anicét Heller present, for your pleasure, this repertoire. Performing together since their marriage in 1979 in Budapest. (Donald is from New York USA and Anicét from Hungary. They are here joined by their son Julien on Baroque violin. The album was recorded in the Black Forest in Germany in 2009.
Julien’s Violin by Thomas Cahusac 1794 (London)
Donald’s and Anicét’s Hurdy-Gurdies by Stan Montagnon 1981 (France)