We know little of Christophe Moyreau’s biography. He was descended from a distinguished Orléans family which, from the Middle Ages onwards, included several musicians as well as others in academic, parliamentary or artistic careers (the painter Jean Moyreau may have been his brother). In or around 1732 Christophe became organist at the cathedral of Sainte-Croix in Orléans, a post he retained until his death in 1772 or 74. He was presumably also a music teacher, since he published a Petit Abrégé des principes de musique par demandes et réponses (now lost), a tutor book for beginners in question-and-answer mode.
This apart, Moyreau’s output is limited to six books of solo keyboard music. These are undated, but the composer was granted a publication privilege on 30 January 1753, and contemporary press notices confirm that all six volumes appeared during that year. Appropriately they are dedicated to the Duke of Orléans, who doubtless contributed towards the production costs and may well have assisted the provincial composer to have his music engraved by Mlle Vendôme, one of the finest engravers of the day. Even so, the chances are that these publications had a limited circulation, given that only a single exemplar of each survives.
In the first five books Moyreau reveals an innovative approach in the design of the suite. Between them, these books contain six colossal suites, two in the first and thereafter one per book. Each suite comprises between 18 and 26 movements, opening with an overture and up to five of the traditional dance movements. These are followed by a larger selection of character pieces (i.e. those bearing descriptive if often enigmatic titles) of the sort that had dominated the French keyboard suite since the time of François Couperin. Then comes a second overture followed by a multi-movement sonata or concerto (or, in Book 5, both). By contrast, Book 6 consists solely of three-movement ‘simphonies’ in the Italian manner, a scheme unprecedented in the solo French repertory.
Graham Sadler – taken from the CD booklet notes
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Moyreau CD notes
Well known as an organist and harpsichordist, Douglas Hollick was the first Organ Scholar at Hull University, studying with Peter Hurford. A Countess of Munster Trust scholarship enabled him to spend a year with Marie-Claire Alain in Paris, and he also later studied with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam. He teaches in Cambridge, at Hull University and at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and has given masterclasses frequently in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
He has played widely both here and abroad, including Westminster Abbey, St John’s Smith Square and St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the 1750 Silbermann organ in Dresden, the 1991 Prague Early Music Festival, and in Melbourne, Sydney, and the Fremantle Bach Festival in Australia. More recent concerts have included further visits to the Czech Republic (with a recording for Czech Radio), Slovakia and Germany, Trinity, Clare and St Catharine’s Colleges Cambridge, Southwell Minster and Coventry Cathedral. The last few years have seen him playing fortepiano as well as organ and harpsichord, and in September 1999 he played an organ and fortepiano recital in the Dolní Lukavice Haydn Festival in Bohemia.
In 1995 he recorded an organ CD entitled The Young Bach for Supraphon in the Czech Republic which has attracted very favourable comment from the musical press. Douglas Hollick was awarded a year 2000 Churchill Fellowship to visit North Germany and Denmark during August/September 2000 to research the organs and other keyboard instruments from the period of Buxtehude and the young J S Bach. This has given new impetus to his ongoing research into questions of performance practices in the 17th and 18th centuries, and a CD recording in Buxtehude’s church in Helsingør is already planned.
For 15 years up until 1990 Douglas Hollick was also a well known maker of early keyboard instruments, balancing the demands of concert and craft, and the harpsichord on this recording is one of the last made. It was specially produced for Douglas’ own concert work, and in this role it has traveled many thousands of miles. A combination of the late 1980s recession and a desire to do much more playing, teaching and research persuaded him to give up the workshop as a commercial venture, although he still does a small amount of mainly restoration work.
“Some composers deserve their obscurity, but there is reason to be grateful to Douglas Hollick for the light he here casts on the hitherto shadowy figure of Christophe Moyreau (c.1690-1772). All six of his ‘livres‘ were published in 1753, probably in a small private edition from which only one copy of each volume has survived. In style the music ranges from forceful ‘ouvertures‘ through inventive character pieces to Italianate, three-movement ‘simphonies‘ and feature graceful melodies, virtuosity and, to use a word from Graham Sadler’s helpful essay, zaniness in more or less equal measure. Hollick plays on a two-manual instrument he built himself and uses its resources sensibly. His playing has an expressive spaciousness which, however, never lapses simply into a reluctance to play the next note and he is certainly up to all the technical challenges – on a par with toses of Scarlatti and Rameau – that Moyreau presents. A refreshing and recommended start to the New Year”
David Hansell, Early Music Review
“I am completely amazed : very strange music, sometimes extravagant, a little decadent, full of harmonic oddities, quite virtuoso, it looks like Rameau, Royer or Scarlatti. I am very surprised to note that this author is completely forgotten… Because his production is extraordinary. In a word : great music !
I must say that I am delighted. It is a fascinating record !!! I hope you will do such other discoveries !”
Jean Yves GARET
“First and foremost, I must express my deep appreciation for this CD; the interpretation, sound, and (above all) the music are absolutely stunning.”
Dr. Roger Peters
“Christophe Moyreau, born in Orléans in the “provinces”, lived and worked in his birthplace city all his life. This isolation from the centre of culture in France was likely what made Moyreau a little-known composer, both during his lifetime and after. Yet this distance may also have contributed to the style of his music, which is very different from that of other harpsichordists of the time or earlier. Unlike Couperin, Moyreau does not overwhelm the listener with ornamentation, though his music is not devoid of it. He also eschewed the flashy, virtuoso style that was so prevalent in the 18th century in France. His music is subtle and moving; he seeks out emotion rather than showiness.
Moyreau wrote six books of solo keyboard music, all of which were published in 1753. His works are laid out in huge suites, ranging from 18 to 26 movements, far more than other composers at the time or since. This recording features a selection of his works, with pieces chosen from each of the six books. However, it is unfortunate that this is just a selection, as opposed to one of these long suites. It would be very interesting to hear how they were constructed.
Douglas Hollick plays this music on a harpsichord he built, which has the perfect sound for this type of music. It is both delicate and ample, and the upper range of the instrument is especially attractive, and not at all harsh. Two of the pieces are played on the organ, and show the diversity of Moyreau’s compositions.
Some of the pieces are subtle explorations of simple melodies, such as the moving La Guepine, a rondeau played “gracieusement“, which uses subtle ornamentation to underscore a melancholic melody. Moyreau’s works often remain in the high end of the instrument, and this piece is no exception. It draws some of its unique sound from the lack of any low bass notes.
The lush texture of the allemande from livre III is quite surprising. Moyreau here shifts between notes that alternate left and right hands and Scarlatti-esque chords. Again played almost entirely at the upper end of the keyboard, the sound is light and airy.
The somewhat canonical L’Agissante, in livre II, recalls Scarlatti in its lively staccato chords and quirky rhythm, and the Sinfonia II in B flat, from livre VI, also uses a lot of rhythmic tricks to create a lively, energetic tone.
This is a delightful recording, well played by Douglas Hollick on an attractive harpsichord. The only negative aspect is that, as much of this music is in the treble range of the instrument, some listeners may get a bit tired of the sound. It’s a shame that this harpsichord isn’t heard in its full range, but the music was written that way.”
Kirk McElhearn, musicweb