Four Suites for Harpsichord by Bernard De Bury: Critical Edition Prepared by Ruta Bloomfield

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The first edition of this music by Bernarnd de Bury (1720-1785), who resided in Versailles his entire life and held various positions at the court, including that of “King’s Chamber Harpsichordist.”



Bernard de Bury (1720-1785) resided in Versailles his entire life, and held various positions at the court. He studied with his father, as well as with François Collin de Blamont (1690-1760), to whom he dedicated his Premier livre de pieces de clavecin. De Bury acquired the post of ordinaire de la chamber pour le clavecin (“King’s chamber harpsichordist”) in 1741. He continued a long distinguished line of musicians who held this position, which had passed from Jacques-Champion Chambonnières (1601/1602-1672) to Jean Henri d’ Anglebert (1629-1691) to François Couperin (1668-1733), to his daughter, Marguerite-Antionette Couperin (1705-c. 1778), and then to de Bury.

The publication date for Bernard de Bury’s Premier livre de pièces de clavecinis not entirely certain. In his dedication, de Bury states that he was fifteen years old at the time the suites were written; this would place their composition in 1735 or 1736, since he would not reach his sixteenth birthday until well into the latter year. The publication was announced in the Mercure de France in January of 1737, leading one to believe that the suites were actually published late in 1736.

A long, rich tradition of French harpsichord compositions preceded the publication of the harpsichord suites by Bernard de Bury. He, like so many others, was influenced by François Couperin, as well as Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). For example, most all of his movements are given titles, even when also identified as a dance movement (and even when the dance is not identified). In addition, ten times the popular form of a rondeau is used (counting second rondeaux and doubles). Furthermore, frequent changes in texture can be seen, ornaments can be identified from the tables of Couperin and Rameau, and notes inégales are appropriate (unless a movement is in Italian style). Examples of Italian influences can be seen in arpeggiated figures, passage work, imitation, circle of fifths progressions, and occasional frequent modulations. In keeping with French aesthetic, most suites end with tender sublimity rather than impressive virtuosity.

By carefully establishing de Bury’s background and position, Bloomfield has clarified his role and significance providing a clearer understanding of his music and its role. Her painstaking transcription of his music, with its many changing clefs and its manuscript form, has brought to the public music that was previously inaccessible and therefore, unknown. The music is worthwhile and increases the knowledge of French harpsichord music of the 18th Century.
The edition itself is well organized; the transcriptions are clear, with all impressions well spaced and easy to read. It is obviously prepared with the performer in mind as the music is carefully laid out to avoid page turns as much as possible. This demonstrates that the edition is practical as well as scholarly and its purpose is truly to bring the music back to life. The descriptions of the titles on pages iv and v are also helpful to the player as well as adding to the scholarship. There is completeness to the edition that shows well thought out research and attention to detail.
-Carolyn W. Simons, Ph.D.
Assistant Department Chair and Professor of Musicology,
The Master's College,
Santa Clarita, CA

Table of Contents

Introduction / Source / Translation of Dedication
Premiere Suite
La Minerve
Sarabande, Les Regrets
Les graces badines
La Tendre Agitation
Le Plaidoyer de Cithere
1er Rondeau
2e Rondaeu
Seconde Suite
La belle Brune
La Citherée
1er Rondeau
2e Rondeau
Troisiéme Suite
Les Amusemens
1er Rondeau
2e Rondeau
Sarabande La *** ou les Sentimens
Zephir 1er Menuet
Flore 2e Menuet
La Pithonisse
La Séduisante
1er Rondeau
2e Rondeau
Double du 1er Rondeau
Double du 2e Rondeau
Quatriéme Suite
La Berillante
La Dampiere
La Michelon
La Jeunesse
Glossary of French Words and Titles
Editorial procedure
Critical Report

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