Giovanni Battista Viotti-Sonata, for Harp with Violin Accompaniment, dedicated to Lady Susan Dunmore
Harp-Inbar Vernia, Violin-Peter Sheppard
Workshop Recording-SOUNDBOX, Royal Academy of Music Museum, 29th Mary 2012
Adagio ‘composta da una dilettante’
Viotti was also the last great soloist who as reportedly happy to work as an accompanist, whether to harpists, pianists or dancers. This has led to questions as to whether Viotti’s main work whilst in the employ of Marie Antoinette was to accompany her as she played sonatas on the harp or fortepiano.
As with almost every aspect of Viotti’s sojourn at Versailles, information is sketchy at best. However inappropriate the role of of violin accmpnanist might seem for Viotti, his Grand Sonata for Harp, with an accompaniment for a violin (ad libitum) epitomises this subservient role. This work was dedicated to Lady Dunmore, at whose soirées he would very likely have met the Comtesse de Boigne, who was an “old friend”.
Jacques Marquet de Montbreton de Norvins (1769-1867) was later Napoleon’s chief of Police in Rome. He described a soirée in the hôtel of the Mme. de la Briches, on the Rue de la Ville Évéque in November 1790, before the ‘tempest’. Cards were being played, whilst Viotti accompanied the niece of the philosophe, Abbé André Morellet (1727-1819), the harpist, Mlle. Belz. The evening was interrupted by the arrival of the recently married Comte and the ‘delicious’ Comtesse de Noailles, nicknamed ‘Madame Etiquette’ by Marie Antoinette, whom she served as ‘First Lady of Honour’. Two years later, the Comtesse made a very different and rather more dramatic entrance into polite society at Brighton, having “travelled by boat disguised as a man, concealed in a giant coil of cable for fourteen hours.”