Ensemble Danguy, Photo: Martin Chang


La Belle Vielleuse

Virtuosic repertoire for the hurdy-gurdy from 18th century France


In the time of Madame de Pompadour, the hurdy gurdy, like the musette, enjoyed a great success. It was considered to be on a level with other instruments and, as can be seen in various paintings, was highly regarded by the ladies of the aristocracy. Several books of instruction for the instrument were published, one of which was Michel Corrette's La Belle Vielleuse; virtuoso players such as Danguy and Dupuits extended its playing techniques to their limits. This programme explores a repertoire otherwise unheard since the 18th century, of the most virtuosic instrumental works for the hurdy gurdy, paired with cantatas, whose texts sing the praises of this instrument.


4-7 musicians



Les Saisons Amusantes

Les Saisons amusantes, concertos d'Antonio Vivaldy mis en musique pour les musettes et les vielles


Nicolas Chédeville lived during the golden age of the hurdy gurdy. Published in 1739, Les Saisons amusantes is a collection of transcriptions of concertos from Antonio Vivaldi's Cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione. In addition to adaptations of Spring, Autumn and Winter (in their interity or movements thereof), Chédeville completes the musical year with three additional concertos, Les Plaisirs de l'Été, La Moisson, and Les Plaisirs de la Saint-Martin, all of which are put together from movements borrowed from other concertos in the same collection.


This programme is offered either in a purely instrumental version, or with the optional vocal addition of a selection of seasonally-themed cantatas and arias.


7-8 musicians



Le Berger Innocent


In 18th century France, it was fashionable for the nobility to imitate an idealized version of life in the countryside, including adopting musical instruments which were associated with this vision of rustic and simpler living. One of the most important of these instruments was the vielle à roue (hurdy gurdy), which was championed both by the ladies of the nobility – including the queen – and by a select group of virtuoso, professional players who not only played, but composed and inspired works by other composers of the day. The decades of 1725-1765 gave way to hundreds of compositions for the instrument, ranging from simple music for the pleasure of noble amateurs, to incredibly complex and virtuosic works which push the instrument to its limits. This programme straddles both worlds, focusing on works which are inspired by the idealized pleasures of country living, and yet which also explore the virtuosity and complex writing associated with the professional musicians of the day, including works by several of the most prominent hurdy gurdy players of the 18th century.


5-8 musicians



The King's Lyre

Works for Lira Organizzata by F.J. Haydn and W.A. Mozart


The instrument of choice of king Ferdinand IV of Naples (1751-1825) was the Lira Organizzata, or organised hurdy gurdy. In the established tradition of adding organ pipes to existing types of instruments, the lira organizzata was a relatively new instrument, whose use had previously been tied to the French baroque repertoire for hurdy gurdy. Numerous works were composed for the king to play on this instrument, notably the Concerti and Notturni of Franz Joseph Haydn, as well as a concerto attributed to a very young W.A. Mozart.


2 Lire Organizzate + orchestra



À la recherche de l'illustre Danguy / Searching for Danguy

In the footsteps of the most illustrious hurdy gurdy player of the 18th century


L'illustre Danguy, the only hurdy gurdy player to have played at the Concert Sprituel, was so famous in his lifetime that works were constantly dedicated to him, and even a cantata was written espousing the wonders of his playing – so famous in fact, that he is only known to us as “l'illustre”, without a first name. This programme follows in the footsteps of l'Illustre Danguy, through works dedicated to this virtuoso, which make mention of him specifically, as well as a handful of short compositions in his own hand, painting a picture of the illustrious musician who inspired so many hurdy gurdy players and composers in his day.


4-7 musicians



Prêt à Jouer - the fashionable fiddlers of 13th century Paris


The 13th century saw a rise in learned and vernacular music-making, and alongside the popularity of instruments such as the medieval sinfonia (chifonie/symphonie), the fiddle (vielle) was the instrument of choice of students and intellectuals active in Paris, much like the guitar for young people today. The vast musical corpus of the 13th century includes both vernacular and latin song, motets, and an instrumental repertoire whose first notated examples stem from this period, and paints a picture of an active intellectual and cultural scene in one of Europe's most important cities of the day.  


4 musicians



The Last Troubadour – music of Guirault Riquier


Guiralut Riquier de Narbonne (c. 1230-1292) was one of the last occitan poet-composers known as Troubadours. His large repertoire includes texts on both secular and religious topics, often with florid, ornamented melodies.


3 musicians