Orchestral transcriptions and chamber music by Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (1699-1782), taken from Pièces de viole (Paris 1747)and inspired in part by the Roman God, Jupiter.


What people are saying

"… it is certainly rewarding to hear Forqueray’s deserving music opened up in such lively and infectious performances."
"All the playing is first rate with exemplary intonation, phrasing, ornamentation and all round good taste."
Early Music Review
"This is revelatory recording marrying scholarship with vivd, risk-taking imagination – highly recommended."
Early Music News

Charivari Agréable Simfonie

Susanne Heinrich – Pardessus de Viole
Oliver Webber – Violon
Rachel Stott – Alto
Susanna Pell – Basse de Viole
Gareth Deats – Violoncelle
Lynda Sayce – Théorbe
Kah-Ming Ng – Clavecin


Release date:1st Apr 1999
Order code:SIGCD008
Barcode: 635212000823

Seen and Heard, MusicWeb – June 2002

Prior to hearing this disc, I was mainly aware of the Charivari Agreable Simfonie (The Period-Instrument Orchestra of Oxford) from their appearances on Radio 3, but the word charivari I originally encountered as the title of a piece from Henry Cowell’s Old American Country Set (to be found on an excellent Koch CD focusing on his “folklorist” rather than avant-garde side). Cowell’s explanation of the term was rather like its dictionary definition A mock serenade of discordant noises, made with kettles, tin horns, etc., designed to annoy and insult) but, both in his case and that of the current ensemble, something rather more musical transpired Maybe in this instance the agreable signifies that the noise is actually rather pleasant.

Forqueray’s music predates Cowell’s by about two hundred years and this selection is arranged into four divertissements, the first three consisting of three pieces each, with five in the fourth and final group. There is a happy balance throughout between the energetic and the lugubrious but I found the second piece on the disc (La Silva) is particularly affecting, with the viol sound approximating to that of an Irish lament, almost recalling O’Carolan’s sublime Farewewll to Music. The French origin of the music is also clearly apparent from the recurrent folk-like inflections. Many of these works were originally intended for viol and continuo but benefit from their ensemble treatment (Forqueray had also arranged these pieces for solo harpsichord). The present arrangements (for between three and seven instruments) by the ensemble’s director and harpsichord player Kah-Ming Ng and violist Susanne Heinrich are generally exemplary.

The booklet notes concentrate mainly on the historical and family background (particularly the turbulent relationship between Forqueray and his father) which led to the creation of this music. They are very thorough. The recording is balanced quite forwardly which, to my mind, this suits the fairly intimate nature of much of the music. The performance is unsurprisingly authentic, given the remit of the ensemble, and playing time is very generous too. Anyone with a feeling for this genre would find it at the very least interesting and as may aficionados of, modern forays into the French heritage (Suites Francaises etc – Poulenc and Milhaud), wondering where it all originated.

Neil Horner

Viola da Gamba Society of America News, March 2001

If you are adverse to early music groups playing arrangements, perhaps you should read no further – but then on the other hand, perhaps you really should! Charivari Agréable’s forte is playing arrangements, very carefully researched arrangements, and certainly following historical practice in which it was popular for a composer to make a setting of another composer’s piece, long before the days of copyright lawyers! The group is one of the UK’s most outstanding ensembles, and it has an international reputation for fresh and yet scholarly approach to early chamber music. The ensemble consists of flutes, various pluckies and keyboards, violin and viols, the latter played by Susanne Heinrich, Susanna Pell and Reiko Ichise.

I happen to love arrangements! I do many of them, but the Forqueray CD is outstanding! For those of us who have struggled playing Forqueray’s difficult solos, I thought this might be a “Forqueray for Dummies” version, with better division of labor than the solo version. But this is not the case! One’s attention is immediately grabbed by Jupiter, with its sautille bowing and richness of sound using all instrumental forces, which include viols, violin and cello, theorbo and harpsichord. For this CD the group calls itself “Charivari Agreable Simfonie”.

Beguiling ornamentation is employed by [pardessus violist Susanne Heinrich] in La Dubreuil as [she] is freed from the tyranny of double stops of the bass viol version, (they are here simply given to another instrument!) and the violin appropriately gets the solo in La Leclair, as Leclair himself was the outstanding violinist of the era. One of my favorite movements is La Sainscy, with a wonderful rollicking bass part taken from the keyboard version of this piece.

The arrangements are so successful that you may decide you prefer Forqueray played this way. Lucy Robinson wrote fascinating program notes explaining the employment of the pardessus viol (actually a quinton on the recording) appropriate to the period and country, and she lists the pieces’ titles (they are mostly named [after] composers and courtiers) and tells something about each. The recording was done in celebration of the tercentenary of Forqueray’s birth. Not all movements are included: one can only wonder at what ingenuity Charivari Agreable would have brought to La Portugaise, La Mandoline or La Forqueray! We can hope they will do a Forqueray spin-off!

HiFi Review (Hong Kong) – May 2000

Jean-Baptiste Forqueray was the court musician for Louis XV. He was also the music tutor to the king’s daughter [and] a famous bass viol player and composer. At that time, the viol started to lose its appeal to the bigger sounding violin and cello. Jean Baptise took on reviving viol music as his duty.

Violinist Jean Marie Leclair was a frequent visitor to Forqueray’s home. Jean Baptise was the witness at Leclair’s wedding. These two friends use similar harmonies and techniques in their composition, probably influencing each other. In his Pieces de viol No.2 Forqueray names it after his friend “La Leclair”. In this CD there are 4 sets of chamber music. All from Pieces de Violes. Not all of Forqueray’s compositions have titles. In this CD most of the pieces have specific titles. The CD’s title “Jupiter” is the title for the first set. This piece shows off how 18th-century composers boldly used their harmonies.

The orchestra that played in this CD is ‘The Period-instrument Orchestra of Oxford’. The director, Ng Kah-Ming, is of Chinese origin. There are not many Chinese musicians who are in the ‘authentic school’. It’s delightful to see that Mr. Ng has done very well overseas. However, this 7-piece configuration is not truly historical. But according to the maestro Trevor Pinnock, whether it is authentic or not, it is most important to sound right. Charivari Agréable Simfonie has the correct sonority. This is also a middle-of-the-road style of performance. Violin, viola and cello are used besides viol. The mentality of the early music movement has advanced to a stage where outside appearances are not important. The important thing is the feeling of music. In this area, Ng Kah-Ming’s orchestra scores an A. Mr. Ng tunes his own harpsichord. The pitch is at A=392Hz, lower than our usual early music orchestra like Bruggen, Hogwood and Pinnock. This is why the colour of the music is a bit dark.

Jean-Baptiste Forqueray’s chamber music has all the essence of the olden days but they are also entertaining. If you want to have a taste of the mid-18C French music, choose this “Jupiter”: you definitely won’t regret it.

trans. Kate Teoh

Gramophone, January 2000

Oxford-based trio Charivari Agreable is making quite a career for itself out of the sheer resourcefulness with which it adapts (mainly French) baroque chamber music to suit its basic line-up of keyboards, lutes and viol. Here, though, it takes things further and adapts 14 of Jean-Baptiste Forqueray’s highly characterized Pieces de viole of 1747 for a number of different string-based scorings, ranging from three to seven players. The results are unusual but perfectly plausible (it has no shortage of musicological argument) and it is certainly rewarding to hear Forqueray’s deserving music opened up such lively and infectious performances.

Lindsay Kemp

Early Music, November 1999

To celebrate the tercentenary of Jean-Baptiste’s birth on 3 April 1699 Charivari Agreable Simfonie have issued a CD also entitled Jupiter. In the spirit of Charivari Agreable’s remit of devising innovative programmes, Susanne Heinrich and Kah-Ming Ng have transcribed 14 of Jean-Baptiste’s densely written pieces for a variety of chamber ensembles. Purists may object both to the mixing of members of the viol and violin family to create a five-part ensemble, and to some of the textures, for example the use of octave doublings. Nonetheless there is some beautiful playing, notably in La Silva where Susanne Heinrich plays the pardessus de viole unencumbered by the complex double stopping and double trills of the original. The highpoints of this recording are the transcriptions for two bass viols and continuo, for which Charivari Agreable have a strong precedent: at the close of his life Leclair arranged three of his thickly chordal opus 1 and 2 violin sonatas in his opus 13 trios.

Lucy Robinson

Jerusalem Post, November 1999

…The same musicians also excel in Jupiter, a selection of orchestral and chamber music transcriptions done in Paris in the mid-18th century. This is not really early music in the pure sense of the term and style, yet the way Jean Baptiste Antoine Forqueray arranged the music for a small ensemble is quite captivating, suggesting that the experience of playing music in small venues by small ensembles – the real essence of the term chamber music – always had and still has a validity.

The freshness of the arrangements and the performers alike, and the actual selections, offer one of the most dynamic, enjoyable, and dramatic discs I have listened to recently; a musical revelation of styles, forms and execution.

Michael Ajzenstadt

Early Music News, July/ August 1999

No wonder Jean-Baptiste Forqueray is unfamiliar, a virtuoso violist credited only with arranging music by his father Antoine. In fact there’s now strong evidence that these 29 Pieces… were actually by the son – resolving in turn curious stylistic differences between them and music unquestionably by Forqueray pere. Problems remained however. Jean-Baptiste’s wife made a harpsichord arrangement, yet even Forqueray’s original gamba-and-continuo score struck a modern-day gamba virtuoso, Susanne Heinrich, as arranged – strangely unwieldy, like a short-score reduction of music for a wider palette. So she and Kah-Ming Ng have scored 14 of the Pieces for up to seven players, sharing melodic interest between violin and the small pardessus de viole, whose tuning creates a vibrant ringing sonority. The result, arranged into four divertissements, is stunning.

The disc opens with ‘Jupiter’, a vivid character piece, breathtakingly energetic with frenetic harpsichord octave doublings to describe his Olympian thunderbolts. Its simple yet distinctive rondeau refrain will haunt your memory for days. Another which I cannot shake off is a chaconne ‘La Buisson’ – beware! This is compulsive listening.

‘La Bouron’, opening the second suite, is remarkably Italianate, positively Vivaldian (and taxing the intonation of unisons between violin and fretted viol). Elsewhere, colours and character are unmistakably French: ‘La Tronchin’ in dense five-part texture, played with balletic grace and stylishly decorated; the third suite dark with two gambas; a final chaconne for solo gamba and continuo engaged in charming invention – time stands still.

This is a revelatory recording marrying scholarship with vivid, risk-taking imagination – highly recommended.

Prof. George Pratt

The Consort, Summer 1999

We have for some time been accustomed to hearing richly woven continuo accompaniments with guitars piled upon lutes and theorbos, harpsichords, cellos and basses, and, more recently, exotic tambourining. Both herald a move among period players to extend the bounds of accepted performing practice. On occasion it can get a little out of hand.

Jupiter, Charivari Agreable’s Forqueray tercentenary party piece, takes unprecedented liberties with the music, leaving the casual listener bewildered and confused, while the more initiated listener wonders about the validity of this post-modern ‘interpretation’ of Forqueray’s already deeply idiosyncratic solo Pièces de viole which Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Forqueray also arranged for harpsichord and published in Paris in 1747.

So what’s the fuss? Charivari have merely orchestrated some of the pièces with instruments associated with French 18th-century chamber music and called them divertissements.

There are several issues to raise here: firstly, in a number of movements (e.g. ‘Jupiter’ and ‘La Bouron’ – which sounds Charivari have created over-rich textures with too much doubling, too many parties de remplissage and over-colourful continuo realisations; secondly, they have plucked the demure pardessus from the privacy of the Rococo salon and planted it in the hurly-burly of a chamber orchestra, where it was never intended to be heard (‘Jupiter’, ‘La Dubreuil’ and ‘La Tronchin’); thirdly, their interpretations are highly theatrical – even the operatic thunder created by Marais and Rameau pales by comparison to the tremolo of ‘Jupiter’ or the shrill screaming of ‘La Tronchin’; and lastly, the theorbo had long been out of fashion by the time this music was composed and sounds anachronistic here, while the guitar is socially out of its depth. In short, the music no longer sounds like Forqueray’s. Or any body else’s.

However, some very lovely, quite illuminating combinations also come out of the chemistry lab, especially in the slow movements where charivari opt for a Vivaldian approach by using smaller forces: the pardessus flourishes when paired with a violin in the trio-sonata texture of ‘La Silva’ one of Forqueray’s finest pieces). In the third of the four divertissements they have shared the original solo viol part out between two bass viols with excellent results (they should publish an edition of the entire book for this combination), and experimented with the continuo instrumentation (the most successful combination is theorbo and harpsichord, in the ‘Sarabande la d’Aubonne’). The ‘Chaconne La Morangis ou la Plissay’ that brings to a close the fourth divertissement offers a completely new take on the ubiquitous bass viol and harpsichord duo, paying tribute to the musical partnership of Forqueray and his wife, Rose, who was an accomplished harpsichordist. Kah-Ming Ng and Susanne Heinrich, also husband and wife, have blended the harpsichord and viol versions to create a fresh and ravishing texture in which they share equally, sensitively if superfluously accompanied on the theorbo by Linda Sayce.

The Charivari Agreable Simfonie play with tremendous verve and discipline. There is no doubting their pleasure and their commitment to their chosen path. But the question remains whether they should be doing it on CD.

Julie Anne Sadie

Seen and Heard, Music Web – June 2002

Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray was one of the leading proponents of the viol and one of the finest musicians of his time. He had a tumultuous relationship with his father, also a violist, who had him imprisoned because he was jealous of his son’s talent. Three years after the death of Forqueray père, the son published a book of pieces he claimed were by his father, although it seems that he actually wrote them. This recording is an innovative reading of some of these works, arranged for an ensemble, rather than for viol and continuo (Forqueray also published a version of the same pieces for solo harpsichord.)

The music is gay and delightful, fitting in perfectly with the specific idiom of 18th century French music for the viol. Harmonically and technically these are demanding works, and melodically they are quite successful. This recording features an ensemble of from three to seven musicians, according to the individual movements. The results are somewhat mixed; at times, the ensemble fits well with the music, providing the lushness and depth it calls for, as in the third movement, the Chaconne, of the first Divertissement. The interweaving of the different instruments as the chaconne progresses is delightful, and gives the music a wonderful texture. The pardessus de viole, however, has a slightly astringent sound at times, and attracts a bit too much attention. The first movement of the fourth Divertissement, La Tronchin, might sound better with a smaller group of instruments. Its melody is less complex, and a solo viol would bring it out much better.

The first piece, called Jupiter, a moderate movement in the first Divertissement, has an uncanny resemblance to Michael Nyman’s music in The Draughtsman’s Contract. It has a repetitive melody, and a similar instrumental sound. Of course, Nyman used baroque music to influence his compositions for the film soundtrack; probably not this exact music, but this gives an idea of the tone.

The third Divertissement is the most restrained piece on this recording. Its three movements are all played nobly and gracefully, as marked, and are more introspective than the more lively dancing music of the other pieces. It is perhaps here that the ensemble sounds its best, with just four instruments, focusing more on the tone and melodies than trying to declaim a rhythm. There is a great deal of subtle orchestration, here; the choice of augmenting this piece, as compared to the original scoring for viol and harpsichord, is quite good.

Overall, this is a very interesting recording. The sound is a bit overdone at times; I would have preferred fewer instruments in some of the pieces. But the arrangements are interesting, and the music itself is delightful and melodically satisfying. For fans of 18th century French music, this recording is certainly recommended.

Kirk McElhearn

Early Music Review, June 1999

Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray was one of the starry team involved in the fist performances of Telemann’s Paris Quartets. His 1747 volume is one of the pinnacles of the viol’s baroque repertoire and extracts from it are here heard in expanded versions (by the performers) for chamber ensembles – though not, despite the title, for what most of us would understand to be an orchestra [cf p. 21] – combining viols and violins of various sizes. All the playing is first rate, with exemplary intonation, phrasing, ornamentation and all-round good taste, and the basic musical material is quite lovely, as EMR readers will surely know. Nonetheless, I am unconvinced by some of the sonorities created here and, indeed, by the need or desirability for them. I find that the least fully scored items make the profoundest impression – track 13, for example – and that the case for interpreting the music ‘in a new light’ is thus undermined. If the expansions bring the existence of the composer to a wider audience, however, they will have served a more than useful purpose. (Warning: there is a guitar in the continuo section for track 6!)

David Hansell

Performers of Renaissance Music for Voices and Instruments, 17 May 1999

…it provides very committed performances of some fine music, with spectacularly varying textures from truly thunderous passages on strings and harpsichord to elegantly expressive ensemble playing.

Viola da Gamba Society Newsletter

Charivari Agreable Simfonie is made up of the core members of the usual trio (Susanne Heinrich, Kah-Ming Ng and Linda Sayce) augmented by violin, viola, cello and another gamba. The release of this CD celebrates the tercentenary of the birth of J.-B. Forqueray, an event at which “an interpretation of the Pieces de viole in a new light seems judicious”. In the print of 1747, available as a facsimile from Minkoff, the pieces are ascribed to “Mr. Forqueray le Pere”, but in an informative note in the booklet, Lucy Robinson restores their authorship to Jean-Baptiste.

This CD then is a version of some of the movements from the familiar suites, “symbolically re-ordered” and spread over anything from three to seven instrumentalists. “The short score appearance of many of the theatrical Pièces prompted their orchestration for the typically French configuration of five parts”?” which in itself must represent many hours of work. The group includes members of both the viol and violin families, including the quinton, the latter-day pardessus. Forqueray’s note on the title page that “Ces Pièces se jouer sur le Pardessus de Viole” which is referred to perhaps as a justification for using this instrument in the Simfonie always seemed to me to be there as a commercial rather than a serious consideration. I would be most interested to hear some of the movements attempted on the pardessus!

The opening track Jupiter is played by the whole group, with most of the bowed strings in unison or octaves, and it is certainly a novel effect. The other thirteen tracks try to achieve contrast through different combinations of instruments. I found that “orchestrating” the pieces detracted from their impressiveness by removing the virtuosic element of a lone gambist, as it were, pitting himself against the music. However, the playing on the CD is of a high order. For me, the effect of the violin when taking the highest part (e.g. La Leclair) is preferable to that of the pardessus (e.g. La Silva) which latter instrument can sound a bit bland.

The CD ends with the smallest number of instruments (three) playing, including a touching performance of La Du Vaucel. The last track La Morangis ou La Plissay mixes elements from the original viol version and the contemporary harpsichord arrangement by du Blois. You get a lot of music for your money, 77.5 minutes in fact, but listening to the whole CD in one go was not something I wanted to do. Finally, an error crept into the labelling of the tracks: no.10 is La Tronchin, not La Angrave, and no. 12 is La Angrave.

  1. Premier Divertissement: Jupiter – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 5.50
  2. Quatrieme Divertissement: La Du Vaucel – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 6.18
  3. Quatrieme Divertissement: La Tronchin – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 3.09
  4. Quatrieme Divertissement: La Cottin – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 2.57
  5. Quatrieme Divertissement: La Angrave – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 6.40
  6. Troisieme Divertissement: La Sainscy – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 5.04
  7. Troisieme Divertissement: Sarabande – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 3.47
  8. Troisieme Divertissement: La Clement – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 7.04
  9. Deuxieme Divertissement: La Leclair – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 3.20
  10. Deuxieme Divertissement: La Dubreuil – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 4.15
  11. Deuxieme Divertissement: La Bouron – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 4.28
  12. Premier Divertissement: Chacoone La Buisson – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 10.42
  13. Premier Divertissement: La Silva – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 4.54
  14. Quatrieme Divertissement: Chaconne La Morangis ou la Plissay – Jean-Baptiste Antoine Forqueray – 8.27