Daquin - Suite de la Rejouissance
This piece is the last movement of Daquin's fourth Suite. After a rondeau and two minuets the remainder of the suite is grouped as a “Divertissement” entitled “The pleasures of hunting”. This movement,“Suite de la Rejouissance” (“The rejoicing continues”) follows a pair of minuets entitled “The hunters celebrate”.
In its original form it is followed by “doubles” or variations, which use the same musical ingredients but with increasingly showy embellishments.
The scene being depicted is an impromptu outdoor celebration at the moment of success (they have caught a deer) rather than the venison feast which will come later.
The instrument that Daquin played and wrote for would have been the harpsichord. Here is Daquin's L'Amusante Rondeau played on harpsichord with subtle viola da gamba (cello-like string instrument) accompaniment.
Pupil Match & Suitability
The student who will enjoy this most will be able to play with precision and delicacy, using their ability to coordinate two parts and possessing a strong technique in both hands.
This music is probably not well suited to those with small hands or a shaky grasp of keyboard geography. There are plenty of wide intervals to negotiate, including an octave held down in the left hand (bars 15, 16 and 27), and a jump on to a first inversion triad in the RH (bars 16 and 28).
Coordination may also be an issue as this is proper two-part counterpoint throughout. The left hand works harder than the right and needs to be nimble and agile. Stamina and consistency are needed to complete the da capo.
Style & Tempo
Daquin's most famous piece for keyboard is probably Le Coucou (The Cuckoo). This performance on harp demonstrates good textural awareness, with the 'Cuckoo' minor third call clearly audible amongst the faster moving passagework.
Phrasing & Articulation
Articulation in Baroque music is another topic of contention (see Style). Harpsichord articulation, compared with the piano, is used in context of a very different set of concerns, especially giving dynamic variety on an instrument with a fixed volume level (French harpsichords of Daquin's day did include options for changing the sound of the whole instrument but generally not while both hands were playing).
Tone & Texture
As this is harpsichord music it was written with a different sound in mind to that of the piano. Indeed, in his Foreword to the book of harpsichord pieces (“Avertissement”) Daquin also suggests different combinations of instruments for playing these pieces, including strings and woodwind. It is worth listening to a recording of such an arrangement (see Background).
The tone should be crisp and clear throughout, with equality of tone between the hands. If the student is technically secure with the notes they can try altering the balance in some places, such as bars 17-20 where the hands exchange musical material.
The instrument used here is a 2004 copy of a 1769 harpsichord.
This piece will be frustrating for a student whose left hand technique is underdeveloped. If they find the piece attractive and wish to learn it, it will help if they are given preliminary exercises for the left hand to improve strength and agility.
The mixture of articulations (staccato, detached, slurred) make this a technically varied piece. This makes it useful as a teaching piece even for students who would not perform it convincingly.
Fingering choices will depend on the size of the student's hand. There is a mixture of jumps and position changes which could be fingered in various ways. Some students like to move the hand around in jumps rather than turn over the thumb for position changes. This is feasible in a detached style of playing. Here is an example of the different possibilities, which are worth trying out before settling on a consistent fingering:
(Jumping) LH bar 1 begins with 5, jumps to a new position with 5 on D in bar 3, jumps to 3 on A in bar 6.
(Turning) LH stays in position (5 on C) through to bar 5, turning 2 over on to A and back in bar 4. Then thumb reaches on to A in bar 6 and turns 3 over on to B to complete the phrase in a new position.
There is a choice for the RH in bar 5-6. Bars 6-8 lie naturally in a 5-finger position so bar 6 will start with a thumb on C but the previous note can be fingered 2 (turning thumb under) or 1 (jumping thumb along).
At grade 2 level only the simplest ornamentation is expected. Daquin composed at a time when ornaments were included as a matter of course throughout any keyboard piece, and were often varied or increased during repeats. However, most students should be able to manage a little shake at the main cadence points (bar15 and 27), where there is plenty of time within the dotted crotchet.
Encourage the student to relax and recognise that they do have plenty of time. Students often seem to attempt trills and shakes as if they were a long row of demisemiquavers (thirty-second notes) notes marked prestissimo! The teacher needs to demonstrate a brief, measured and relaxed way of playing.
More mature or confident students who have an interest in the French Baroque style may wish to add extra ornaments when playing the da capo.
Young students and those who find the notes alone enough of a technical challenge may omit ornaments if they are likely to disrupt the flow of the music in performance.
As this is a harpsichord piece, use of pedal would be inappropriate.
Daquin is far less well known than some of his contemporaries, so it is worth using this piece as the basis for a little exploration of French baroque music and its rather different style. His life story, especially in childhood, is also interesting and may help to engage the student's imagination.
The context of the piece in its descriptive Suite, as discussed under “Background”, can help enliven the performance.
Always pay attention to accuracy in the jumps. It is easy to take for granted when playing hands separately and then miss the note when the other hand is added.
The cure for this is to arrive at the note early when playing slowly and check that the note is squarely covered by the correct finger before playing it.
A lot of hand position changes are made insecure by the student hesitating (or even waving the hand about) in mid-air. Consistent fingering is vital, and so is knowing in advance exactly where the next note is, to avoid having to stop and lose the movement whilst checking the music.
There may be places where coordination between the hands proves quite difficult to achieve. Slow, patient step-by-step practice is necessary. See also “Troubleshooting”.
One of the main problems with performances of this piece is the lack of apparent feel for the phrasing.
A subtle crescendo into each phrase with a diminuendo towards the phrase ending in the first section and through Bars 21 - 28 will be much appreciated by the listener.
An excellent performance will communicate a lively sense of the celebratory mood of the successful huntsmen. Contrapuntal playing will be secure and stylistically aware. Ornaments will sound spontaneous and confident, with perhaps even some additional ones in the da capo reprise. Articulation will be varied and sensitive, and dynamic shadings, both subtle and “stepped” will provide further enjoyment to the listener.
A good performance will bring some flair to a technically competent rendering of the notes. There will be a sense of phrase with interesting articulation and the ornaments will be naturally incorporated. It will be evident that the performer has listened to French music of the period and become comfortable with the style.
A sound performance will show equal security in both hands. There will be some dynamic variety and awareness of style. Minor slips will be overcome without losing the flow. The overall mood may be a little cautious.