Entire programs of the harpsichord music of Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer have been recorded by such illustrious harpsichordists as Christophe Rousset and William Christie on the L’Oiseau Lyre and Harmonia Mundi labels respectively – but neither are currently available. Just issued by Brilliant Classics, this new recording of Royer’s Premiere livre de pièces pour clavecin (1746) by harpsichordist Yago Mahugo restores Royer’s deserving music to the catalog.
Royer was active during the golden age of harpsichord music in France that began with Jean-Henri d’Anglebert and Louis Couperin, and culminated in the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (1705-1755) was a relative contemporary of Rameau; as an additional point of reference, he was also one of J.S. Bach. His output for the instrument was considerably less than Rameau’s – i.e., it all fits on this one CD. Like Rameau, Royer was a composer of opera, and music for the theatre by both composers found its way into their harpsichord pieces.
Typical of the period, Royer’s music, based largely on dance forms, is highly ornamented and marked by strong contrasts in tempo and fast chord changes. Calling for dense outpourings of sound, it is very “thick” at times. Mahugo’s harpsichord sounds appropriately robust. It is a two-manual instrument modeled after one of 1638 by Johannes Ruckers of the illustrious Ruckers family of harpsichord builders. Brilliant Classics provides full, crisp sound for Mahugo’s exciting performances. The sound sample we’ve provided is a passage that is on the previously mentioned thick side of the scale for Royer’s music.
One of the lesser-known composers of the mid 18th-century, Turin-born Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer relocated to Paris, where he earned a reputation as a formidable harpsichordist. He was in the service of Louis XV for many years, and wrote many operas and ballets for the court at Versailles, later becoming administrator of the Concert Spirituel. Royer’s style is a perfect fusion of Italian melos and French freedom, as expressed in the elaborate ornamentation and rhythmic fluctuations.
Royer’s harpsichord works bear the hallmarks of his work in the musical theatre. In a preface to the Premier Livre de Pièces pour Clavecin, the composer states that the ‘pieces are open to great variety, passing from the tender to the lively, from the simple to the tumultuous, often successively within the same piece’. They also show the impact of his work in the musical theatre, with several being arrangements of instrumental numbers from his operas. The lilting La Zaïde — with L’Aimable, La Sensible and Les Tendres Sentiments — is an example of a ‘tender’ piece, with the latter particularly notable thanks its rhythmic freedom. Several pieces can be described as ‘tumultuous’, in particular the relentlessly energetic and demanding La Marche des Scythes, and the changeable L’Incertaine lives up to its title, not conforming to a specific definition.
Yago Mahugo, prizewinner at the International Harpsichord Competition and at the Bruggen Competition (Belgium), leads an active concert life and has performed in many of the most prestigious concert halls and festivals throughout Europe and the USA.
– CD PREMIERE: For the first time on disc the complete keyboard music of Royer.
– Recorded in 2011 on a harpsichord after Johannes Ruckers, Antwerp 1638.
– Played on a magnificent copy of a Ruckers instrument .
– Contains notes on the composer and works.
– Contains a biography of the artist.
1. La Majestueuse: Courante 03:54
2. La Zaïde: Rondeau (Tendrement) 05:39
3. Les Matelots (Modérément) 02:21
4. Premier et Deuxième Tambourins 01:35
5. L’Incertaine (Marqué) 03:21
6. L’Aimable (Gracieux) 05:49
7. La Bagatelle 01:27
8. Suite de la Bagatelle 02:10
9. La Remouleuse: Rondeau (Modérément) 02:24
10. Les Tendres Sentiments: Rondeau 07:45
11. Le Vertigo: Rondeau (Modérément) 05:19
12. Allemande 05:26
13. La Sensible: Rondeau 04:47
14. La Marche des Scythes (Fièrement) 06:48
15. La Chasse de Zaïde 03:03
Composer: Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer
Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (c.1705-1755) was a French composer and harpsichordist. Born in Turin, he went to Paris in 1725, and in 1734 became maître de musique des enfants de France, responsible for the musical education of the children of the king, Louis XV.
Harpsichord: Yago Mahugo Ruckers Harpsichord, Antwerp 1638
Mahúgo Iago is one of the early music performers leading the music scene in Spain. He has won in 35 Key International Competition in Budapest and 13 Key Contest Bruges (Belgium), considered the most important contest of Ancient Music.