Academic journal article Notes

"Un Cabinet De Musique"-The Library of an Eighteenth-Century Musician

Academic journal article Notes

"Un Cabinet De Musique"-The Library of an Eighteenth-Century Musician

Article excerpt

Gabriel-Vincent Thevenard (1669-1741) was a leading singer at the Paris Opera during its early, formative years. He was born probably in Orleans, but possibly in Paris (see plate 1), and is said to have been the son of a food merchant in whose shop he worked as a youth. (1) Nothing is known of his early training as a singer, but by 1690, he was in Paris performing at the Academie royale de musique. While initially assigned secondary and substitute roles, by 1695 Thevenard had become a noted basse-taille at the Opera. He appears to have been a student of Andre Destouches, who created parts for him (as did Andre Campra), and he sang leading roles in works by the finest opera composers of the time. (2) In 1729, after some forty years of activity as a professional singer, Thevenard married a young girl and retired from the Opera with a pension. He is purported to have been a heavy drinker and carouser, and to have had a fiery and testy temperament. (3)

Little else was known about Thevenard, (4) at least before a catalog of his musical library was recently uncovered, providing a fascinating view of this man through the special quality of the collection he assembled. The catalog was printed in 1742, the year after Thevenard's death, compiled for the purpose of selling the library by auction. A copy survives as a unicum at the Bibliotheque nationale de France (call number: delta 3743). The owner of the collection is anonymous in the printed source (as is the publisher), but a manuscript inscription in a contemporaneous hand on the paper cover of the catalog provides the identification "Tevenard--1742." (5)

The care with which the collection is described is unusual for auction catalogs of the time, suggesting that it probably was compiled by the publisher using notes left by Thevenard. The catalog lists 302 individual items, numbered consecutively and divided into seven principal musical genres: Sonates (78 items), Pieces de clavessin (11 items), Cantates (20 items), Cantatilles (5 items), Airs (13 items), Motets (9 items), and Opera (166 items). A few works in other genres are included among these without separate classification; for example, concertos are found under Sonates, musical treatises under Airs, works for viol under Pieces de clavessin, and ballets and divertissements under Opera. Yet--apart from grouping the works of individual composers by genre, and from maintaining the order of opus or volume numbers for works issued in series--there appears to be no logical organization to the catalog; composers are listed neither by nationality nor alphabetically, nor are their works arranged chronologically. Indeed, the compilation may well reflect the manner in which Thevenard stored his music: generally by composer within each genre, but with little heed paid to the sequence of items on the shelf.

The information supplied for individual catalog listings is not always consistent; each may include a work's title, size, format, date, opus or volume number, the number of its voices or parts, and indication as to whether the item is printed, engraved, or in manuscript. Only occasionally are bindings or unusual physical characteristics described (these are noted especially among the Opera). There are a small number of unclear or incomplete listings that describe items in general terms rather than provide specific titles or publication information (particularly among the Airs).

Items that comprise two or more works bound together are normally listed by the genre and composer of the first work in the binding, followed by identification of the others that comprise the bound volume. The numerical listing of items is consecutive throughout the catalog, except for four works, which are identified by numbers already assigned to other works in the listing, but supplied with asterisks (nos. 31 *, 122 *, 177 *, and 202 *). This procedure provided the compiler with a convenient way of adding works to the listings without disturbing the original order. …

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