Ruta Bloomfield received the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts in Historical Performance Practices at Claremont Graduate University in 2008, where she studied harpsichord with Robert Zappulla. She edited the suites of Bernard de Bury as part of her doctoral thesis. These studies were preceded by degrees from Northwestern University in Illinois (M.M.) and Bowling Green State University in Ohio (B.M.). Dr. Bloomfield has taught for two decades at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA, where she resides with her supportive husband, Ken, and their three children. Her goal in performing and teaching is to be a blessing to others with the gifts God has given her by playing skillfully to His glory (Psalm 33:3).
Music at the French court at Versailles flourished during the time of Louis XIV (1638-1715). Although Bernard de Bury (1720-1785) lived after this monarch, the positions for musicians set up under the Sun King would continue well into the eighteenth century. There were over 150 official musicians at the court. Music as an institution on a grand scale at Versailles was thus set in place before Bernard de Bury was even born.
Bernard de Bury resided in Versailles his entire life, and held various positions at the court. Many from his musical family also held court appointments. He studied music with his father, as well as with François Collin de Blamont (1690-1760), to whom he dedicated his Premier livre de pièces de clavecin. De Bury acquired the post of ordinaire de la chambre pour le clavecin (“king’s chamber harpsichordist”) in 1741. De Bury continued a long distinguished line of musicians who held this position, which had passed from Jacques-Champion Chambonnières (1601/1602-1672) to Jean-Henri D’Anglebert (1635-1691) to François Couperin (1668-1733), to his daughter, Marguérite-Antoinette Couperin (1705-c.1778), and then to Bernard de Bury.
The publication date for Bernard de Bury’s Premier livre de pièces de clavecin is not entirely certain. In his dedication, de Bury states that he was fifteen years old at the time the suites were written; this would place their composition in 1735 or 1736, since he would not reach his sixteenth birthday until well into the latter year. The publication was announced in the Mercure de France in January of 1737, leading one to believe that the suites were actually published late in 1736.
A long, rich tradition of French harpsichord compositions preceded the publication of the harpsichord suites by Bernard de Bury, and he himself contributed to the legacy that would continue to be built throughout most of the century. He, like so many others, was influenced by François Couperin, as well as Jean-Philippe Rameau, the two titans of French harpsichord music of the eighteenth century. For example, most all of his movements are given titles, even when also identified as a dance movement (and even when the dance is not identified). In addition, ten times the popular form of a rondeau is used (counting second rondeaux and doubles). Furthermore, frequent changes in texture can be seen, ornaments can be identified from the tables of Couperin and Rameau, and notes inégales are appropriate (unless a movement is in Italian style). Examples of Italian influences can be seen in arpeggiated figures, passage work, imitation, circle of fifths progressions, and occasional frequent modulations. In keeping with French aesthetic, most suites end with tender sublimity rather than with impressive virtuosity.