Joined by Webb Wiggins, harpsichord, and Susie Napper, viola da gamba, pardessus virtuoso Tina Chancey captures the spirit of Leclair's violin sonatas written in the mid 18th century, a musically turbulent time of transition from baroque to classical styles. She plays the pardessus, the instrument of choice for aristocratic women amateur musicians who loved the violin but were prohibited by custom from resting an instrument on their shoulder; for orchestral cellists interested in the violin music of Leclair and Corelli but unwilling to switch playing positions; and for middle class women from the provinces hoping to marry into the nobility.
THE PARDESSUS DE VIOLE
The five-stringed pardessus (part o’ sue) de viole was played in France from around 1730 until just before the French Revolution. Held on the lap and tuned in overlapping fifths and fourths like a hybrid violin and viola da gamba, the pardessus was also popular with orchestral cellists interested in playing Corelli, child prodigies with small hands, and provincial middle-class young women in search of wealthy husbands. The ethereal sound of the pardessus (often compared to the human voice), and its chameleon-like adaptability (borrowing repertoire from the violin, flute and bass viol), won it many admirers until the French revolution, after which it was no longer wise to ape the aristocrats.
JEAN-MARIE LECLAIR (1697 – 1764)
A violinist, dancer and composer from Lyon trained in Turin, during his lifetime Leclair was employed by Louis XV of France, the Princess of Orange, and the Duke of Gramont. In the first half of the 18th century, European composers such as Telemann and Couperin searched for a unified musical taste (les goûts réunis) combining elements from French, Italian and German music for an evolved, International style. Leclair’s inspired mixture of nuanced French ornaments, Italian bravura passagi, an intensely chromatic chordal palette reminiscent of the Sturm und Drang movement, and a bit of the German empfindsamer Stil (sensitive style), best represented by his four books of violin sonatas (1723-38), created a witty, moving, lively synthesis.
TINA CHANCEY directs HESPERUS, the world-traveled early/traditional music ensemble known for its collaborations with silent film, theater, dance, and world music. She plays Old Time and Irish fiddle; kamenj, lyra, rebec and vielle; and viola da gamba on everything from Sephardic and blues to early music and jazz. In 1990 she received a $15,000 grant from the NEA for pardessus debut recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall and Kennedy Center. Tina attended Oberlin College, received Masters’ degrees from Queens College and NYU and a PhD in musicology from the Union Institute. A frequent guest artist with Ex Umbris and the Terra Nova Consort, she is a former member of the Folger Consort, the early music/rock band Blackmore’s Night, and the multi-media music theater ensemble QUOG. She teaches, performs, records, produces recordings for others, and directs SoundCatcher workshops teaching musicians how to play by ear, as well as how to improvise music by playing theater games. Her first recording in the Versatile Viol series is Tina Chancey plays Scottish and Irish Music. In June 2008, Tina was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Early Music America.