9. Spot the difference: One Prelude, Two Manuscripts

In Blog #4, Sound files for the French Théorbe de Pièces, I include Prelude 29v from Goess. Since making that recording I read through the music for théorbe de pièces by Charles Hurel, and recognised the same prelude (18v-19r) but with some interesting differences.

Here are the two scores – Goess first – with their sound files:

The differences in the first line are minor, but the second line of the Hurel MS version shows a stepwise descent to the 12th course (marked 5), and also a little manoeuvring on the 6th string before the arrival of the 13th course.

There is a big difference in line three, turning the Goess major chord into a Hurel minor chord. Goess goes straight for the Dominant chord of the key, while the Hurel version delays the Dominant until the end of the line, which I have to say I personally find more interesting, less obvious.

The passage in 10ths is similar with minor differences, culminating in an f on the first string, above an open third string. Goess indicates a lower mordent on the f, while Hurel has a vibrato sign.

Goes has a separé chord of the letters e/d/a at the end of the fourth line, while the Hurel version is spelled out.

The first minim note in the last line of Goess is a letter c, while the corresponding note in Hurel is b, a flat 7th of the prevailing Dominant chord.

Finally there is a difference in how the last tonic chord is played with Goess offering a lower auxiliary followed by the 14th course, and Hurel offering two chords after the 14th course, the last being strummed with the index finger.

Any performer based with two versions might cobble together a composite of their favoured bits, and there is nothing wrong with that. Of course, if you are giving a recital of Goess items, you would want to stick with that version, and the same for an Hurel recital. But for me the interest lies in the demonstration of the degree of freedom we can have in interpreting French baroque scores, at least in the prelude, but possibly in dances too. It would be interesting to compare two versions of, say, an allemande or a courante.

Of course, the ultimate freedom comes in improvising our own preludes, but that’s a discussion for another day.

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