A Frenchman by birth, composer and multi-instrumentalist Jacques Paisible made his name and fame as a recorder player in England where he lived and worked for some 40 years. Fame isn’t an understatement: contemporary accounts of Paisible describe him as a “master” and one who played his instrument “perfectly” and in June 1710, Zacharias Conrad von Uffenbach wrote that Paisible was “one without alike.” So by all accounts, Paisible certainly made a splash—and though he was a reportedly mannered and well-bred man, his popularity wasn’t due only to his charming personality. This man could play! The virtuosity found in his music requires a technique well beyond what was the norm in London at the time.
Musicke’s Pleasure Garden
That virtuosity is on display in a 2016 Paladino Production recording by the ensemble Musicke’s Pleasure Garden. With the exception of a few spurious movements, the group’s 2 CD recording presents Paisible’s complete sonatas and suites for baroque treble recorder and continuo, along with a couple of recorder duos without bass.
The music for the recording comes largely from a manuscript held in the National Library in Paris, though other available sources, among them, manuscripts at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY and the Detroit Public Library, were also consulted.
Despite the large and growing community of amateur recorder players in 18th c. London who created a new flourishing market for music printing, the music by Paisible on this recording was never published during his lifetime. Paisible seems to have intended the sonatas for professional recorder players, or for his own performance. He, after all performed extensively in England on the recorder (as well as the bass violin) often in theater bands, or for entr’actes at Dorset Garden, Drury Lane, and the Haymarket theatres. The suites on this recording especially belie these theater roots.
A New Kind of Instrument
When Paisible arrived in England in 1674, recorder players there were still commonly using a one-piece Renaissance type of instrument. Were you to look down the inside of this recorder, it might look a bit like an hourglass, flaring at the ends. A baroque recorder, on the other hand, has three joints: head, middle and foot, and a tapered cylindrical shape all the way down. It was this latter, novel instrument that Paisible brought with him from France to his new home in England.
Expats in England
Paisible was one among many musicians and composers who came to England from across the continent at the start of 18th century from Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy. Fellow expats with whom Paisbile worked with in England included Dieupart and Cambert who broke away from Lully and his music monopoly in France, the German, Johann Christoph Pepusch, and Italian violinist Gasparo Visconti.
You can certainly hear cosmopolitan elements—Italianate figurations, French forms and ornamentation in Pasibile’s music, brought to the fore in the performances by Musicke’s Pleasure Garden.
Paisible’s previously unpublished music from the manuscript collection that we’ve featured on the podcast today has been recorded in bits and pieces on various other recordings, but this is the first to gather it all into one place. It’s availability is in no small part thanks to the work of David Lasocki who has recently made modern e-editions of the scores available to a wider public.
You can visit David Lasocki’s website here.