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Konov, Yavor

The first harpsichord treatise "Les Principes du Clavecin" by Saint Lambert (Paris, 1702)

Ph.D. State Academy of Music "Pancho Vladigerov", Sofia, Bulgaria, 1997
(konov@netbg.com)

This dissertation is an assessment of De Saint Lambert's first harpsichord treatise (Les Principes du Clavecin, Paris, 1702), to gain understanding of eighteenth-century keyboard performance practices.

The study examines M. De Saint Lambert's "Les Principes du Clavecin" as the first systematical treatise devoted to education in playing the harpsichord. Treatises by other authors (de Santa-Maria, Purcell, and Francois Couperin) are considered in comparison to Saint-Lambert's treatise, which is seen as motivated by the development and flowering of the harpsichord in the time of Louis XIV, and responding to the increasing necessity of treatises about harpsichord-theory, practice and method of education.

The Saint Lambert treatise is the first to present the "learner" as the most important figure in the triad "knowledge-teacher-learner." The treatise is extremely systematic, clear, and gradual in its formulation of rules and methods. De Saint Lambert focuses especially on hand position as the learner's and teacher's main focus. De Saint Lambert also clearly differentiates between the qualities of the good musician-performer and those of the good musician-pedagogue, and insists on tailoring the teaching process to the individual learner. He ultimately leaves to the talented learner an understanding of "bon goût" as ultimate arbiter.

Saint Lambert introduces some specific innovations, based on his experience as a teacher: the most important are proposals to reform the system of clefs, simplification in the notation of of notes and embellishments, and changes in the fingering of the scale passages.

The study provides a comparative analysis of the musical terms used in Saint Lambert's treatise, the first French dictionary of music (S. De Brossard, Dictionnaire de musique, contenant une explication des termes grecs, italiens, latins, published Paris 1705), the Dictionnaire historique de la langue française (Le Robert, 1992), and the principal Bulgarian sources for music theory and terminology.

A closing section remarks on the personality of De Saint Lambert: experienced harpsichordist, outstanding pedagogue and theorist, with a strong sense of morality and lack of self-assertion or greed. This is probably both a function of De Saint Lambert's influence by French moralists and because of his own nature and attitudes. The author concludes that "Les Principes du Clavecin" is a shining example of 17th-century harpsichord theory and practice, and should be of interest to contemporary teachers and performers, particularly those interested in French harpsichord repertories; and that it should receive a respectable place in Bulgarian musical literature and education.