Cappus – Le Dijonnais oublié

(The forgotten Composer from Dijon)
Premier Livre de Pieces de Viole (1730)
97:50 (2 CDs in a wallet)
Astres Records As1

There is no greater musicological frisson than to be able to present something brand new to the world of Barqoue music, from a completely unknown source, or by an unknown composer, expanding both our knowledge and the specific repertoire. This is the intended mission of Jonathan Dunford and his highly capable and expressive entourage of musicians in revealing the works of Jean (Baptiste) Cappus. He was born in Dijon on the 6th October 1689, in the parish of St Medard, which six years later saw the birth of a one Jean-Philippe Rameau. His father, François, was a singing master, said to have been a good organist, and sang at Dijon cathedral; he died in 1716 after a full life. His mother, Anne Hervelin, passed away when Jean was three years old in 1692. Some of the early collections of “ Livres d’Airs” and Airs à boire” from 1690-1700 were most likely by his father; however, due to the context and location, the 1722 cantata, “Le Temple de la gloire”, given in honour of the illustrious house of the Counts of Saulx, at the Jesuit College in Dijon, seems to be the work of the son, following in his father’s footsteps. In 1728 we see the divertissement mis en musique, “Le retour de Zéphire”, published in Dijon and given at the same Jesuit College. In 1729 his divertissement, “Les Plaisirs d’hiver”, was performed before the queen at Versailles. The following year we see the publication of the “Premier livre de Pièces de Viole”, divided into four suites: the two major key suites are performed on CD1 and the two minor key suites on CD2 (D, G, d, a). They each open with a fantasie or prelude, moving through the common dance forms, yet sprinkled with some movements imitative of hurdy-gurdy or musette, and delightful character vignettes, plus topographical references all firmly seated in the Burgundy region. The Duke and Duchess feature, too, this collection being dedicated to Charles Henry Gaspard, Duke de Saulx, Lieutenant Commander of Duchy of Burgundy, Brigadier-General of the king’s army. The musicians on this recording embrace and deliver the requisite French elegance with deeply resonant “tawny” tones on their period gambas. We hear a comparable musical filigree and approach to that of a Ste. Colombe, and adhering especially to that of a Marais. The transition through the movements admirably displays the compositional prowess of Cappus, and perhaps belies sometimes a flowing violinistic agility. These special qualities obviously struck the right noble spheres and ears of music making, as these Suites received a mention in the November Mercure de France 1730. The well-rounded and responsive musicians on these discs have opened up the trail to this neglected composer and his works from Dijon, who deserves to join the bright constellation of the famous, as a most accomplished master in his own right. CD pull-out pamphlet only in French, tant pis! (See an article on Cappus by Jonathan Dunford by clicking HERE). One hopes, too, to hear more of this composer’s noteworthy works, perhaps his 1732 cantata, Sémélé  (also known as “La naissance de Bacchus”), to further attest to the merits of this Dijon based composer, who rubbed shoulders with Rameau, and may have had lessons with Marais.

David Bellinger

To buy the CDs and find out more about Jonathan Dunford and Cappus, visit the website.

  • Performance
  • Recorded sound
  • Booklet notes
  • Overall presentation
3.8