An upbeat affair

Guillaume-Gabriel Nivers (c.1632–1714) was by far the most sophisticated of the French organ composers of the 1660s and 70s. His keyboard music, with that of Nicolas Lebègue, provided the foundation for the great flowering of the late seventeenth century (principally Jacques Boyvin, François Couperin, and Nicolas de Grigny) and the novelties of the early eighteenth (Louis-Nicolas Clérambault and André Raison).

Anyone wishing to have a thorough understanding of the classical French keyboard style should make Nivers a port of call, says Edward Higginbottom, and one of the things his music illuminates is the manner of rendering the port de voix, that most expressive and prized device in the repertory of French agréments. In this short article Higginbottom discussses the nature of the port de voix: its notation, timing, and performance.

The article first appeared in the RCO Journal for 2018.



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