From the recording DIVERTIMENTI
Henri Joseph de Croes - Divertimenti – Music as Amusement
The pieces on this disc, Divertimenti and Douze Morceaux, were originally intended to amuse, that is to say they were used as background music at entertainments, parties and banquets.
This was perfectly normal in the 18th century. Nor is it anything unusual in our own day and age. Never before have we listened so much to music and very often this music serves as a background whether we are in the car, at home or in public.
What makes De Croes’s music so special is its remarkable quality and vir-tuosity. De Croes was the kapellmeister of the court orchestra of Regensburg, one of the three leading orchestras of eighteenth century Europe.
De Croes combines the airily playful and convoluted court music with the rational forms of classicism and sensibility of the early romantic period.
The picture shown on the inlay of this CD was painted by Jan Joseph Horemans II (1714-1790), a contemporary of Henri Joseph de Croes, and like him a forgotten talent. He came from a family of painters who lived in Antwerp in the 18th century. His paintings are of great interest to historians of music because he painted numerous interiors and the musical instruments in them.
This music was moreover penned for the best 18th century soloists. Listen and you will hear the story of a lost composer from an era that shows some remarkable similarities to today’s Europe.
Henri Joseph de Croes
Henri Joseph de Croes (Brussels 1758 - Regensburg 1842) was a composer and violinist from the Southern Netherlands, a contemporary of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. He was the son of Henri-Jacques de Croes (Antwerp 1705 - Brussels 1786) and was a violinist and composer to the Princes of Thurn and Taxis in Brussels and Frankfurt. Later on in life he became kapellmeister and director of music at the Royal Court Orchestra in Brussels. When his son, Henri Joseph de Croes, was eighteen he joined the service of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis in Regensburg in Bavaria, at first as a violinist and later on as kapellmeister. He lived in Regensburg until his death at the age of eighty-four.
The connection between the De Croes family
and Thurn and Taxis
Henri-Jacques de Croes started to work for the Thurn and Taxis family in 1729. The family was an ancient noble line that had held the monopoly on the posts and coaching services in Europe for hundreds of years. In the 16th century a branch of the family settled in Mechelen (Malines) and subsequently moved to Brussels. When the war of the Spanish Succession broke out the centre of operations in Brussels had to be abandoned and in 1702 the family moved to Frankfurt. Under the Peace of Utrecht in 1713 the Southern Netherlands were awarded to the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs. The Thurn and Taxis family were then able to move back
to Brussels, but until 1748 they would live partly in Brussels and partly in Frankfurt. For fitfeen years, Henri-Jacques accompanied the family as they shuttled back and forth.
Thurn and Taxis in Regensburg:
Court music of the highest quality
Karl Anselm, the fourth prince of Thurn and Taxis (from 1773 to 1797), encouraged court music in the summer residence at Trugenhofen and at the main residence in Regensburg.
He continued to develop the ensemble, which had been founded for diplomatic reasons by his father, Alexander Ferdinand, one of the Emperor’s leading representatives. He engaged numerous virtuoso musicians, including the French violinist Joseph Touchemoulin, the Bohemian composer Franz Xaver Pokorný, the oboe player Giovanni Palestrini and flautist Fiorante Augustinelli, both from Italy. During the closing decades of the 18th century the orchestra swelled to 42 members and its quality became such that one could accurately describe the Regensburg orchestra as the Berlin Philharmonic of its time. Together with the orchestra at Mannheim and the Esterhazy family’s orchestra in Eisenstadt, which was headed by Joseph Haydn, the Thurn and Taxis orchestra at Regensburg was one of the best of the age.
From 1776 to 1798 Henri Joseph de Croes worked as a violinist at the court in Regensburg. When Touchemoulin died in 1798, the court offered Henri Joseph de Croes the job of kapellmeister, a recognition of his outstanding musical abilities. The historical performance material has fortunately been preserved in excellent condition in the court library. Nowadays it is internationally regarded as being one of the most important sources of 18th century music.
The manuscript of Douze Morceaux, an unscored set of pieces, is kept in the Thurn and Taxis court library. The title reads “composé à Tischingen par Henri De Croes 1788”.
The divertimenti are kept in the same library and were composed between 1793 and 1794.