Pierre-César Abeille (bapt.1674, d. after 1733)

Almost nothing is known of the life of Pierre-César Abeille save for two appointments: the first was as maitre-de-chapelle at St Trophime in Arles, 1699-1700, the other he held for little more than 6 months in 1713, as vicaire du choeur and maître de musique at the important Parisian church of St Germain-l’Auxerrois.

His setting of the Psalms of David translated into French by the Bishop of Vence were intended for the use of the young ladies of St Cyr, and are highly regarded as skilful settings of great variety.  

Abe 1

Acteon Cantate Burlesque

for bass (G-e'), oboe (or violin), viol & continuo

Price: £ 6.90

The current work, Acteon Cantate Burlesque, is his only known cantata. Based on the well-known story from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, of the young hunter who, having gazed upon Diana bathing naked in a woodland stream, was punished by being turned by her into a stag. The tragic version of the story has Acteon being hunted down and killed by his own hounds, but in this burlesque version, he simply bounds off into the forest, and we are not told what happens after that.

Also in the spirit of the burlesque, there are two very tongue-in-cheek ‘morals ‘ drawn from this story: one is that prudent young ladies take care not to reveal all their good points at the same time, and the other is that it is better, if you are so unfortunate to have a disfigurement, like horns on your head, to remain unaware of it – what the eye does not see……

The style is lively and attractively quirky, and is well suited to the character of the oboe, although the score is marked ‘Violons ou Hautbois’. The instrumental introduction marked ‘Bruit de Chasse’ is followed by an accompanied recitative, and a pastoral air which presents the first ‘moral’ about prudent young ladies. There follows an air full of menace with a heavily accented continuo alone, describing Acteon’s peril. The next recitative describes with full dramatic effect Diana’s rage and mortification, and the transformation of Acteon. The final air with the second ‘moral’ is a lyrical duo for the voice and solo viol, with a comparatively minor role for the oboe or violin.

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