Dear Mr. Puppy,
Was there an April fools day in 18th century Paris?
I have never taken a liking to Pierre Nicolas Housset, he is too much of Parisian in his mannerisms for a South Italian’s sentiment. He is insufferable as a musician and believes that the time he spent with the great Tartini in Padua gave him carte blanche to be an expert on the subject of expression and harmony. Tartini predicted that he would become “The Terror of Violins”, which in these troubled times has certainly taken on a disagreeable meaning. last April, After Lent, Housset and some of the others in the orchestra cooked up something odious for me. During rehearsals for an Italian production with the director of the company. Monsieur Viotti as conductor, M. La Houssaye leader of the French band just ‘happened’ to present himself. Housset continually whined that he spent five years in Padua with Tartini at the “Scuola Delle Nazioni”. Actually, he took a few lessons from him in 1753 when he traveled in the entourage of his employer the Prince of Monaco, and repeated these a few years later. He was certainly an enthusiast of Tartini’s method of violin playing, but five years of continual study was an overstatement. Viotti, whom I now suspect was party to the whole enterprise, begged Housset, as a ‘favor’, to perform a specimen of the Master’s manner of playing for the edification of the whole group. When he had finished this charade, Viotti pronounced, in a voice loud enough to be heard by the whole orchestra. Now, Signor Puppo, now that you have listened to my friend, Monsieur La Houssaye, you will be able to form an idea as to how Tartini actually played!”I certainly regret the whole affair, which was initiated by my publisher Monsieur Porro, trying to pump up sales and inserting an advertisement into the Paris Gazette that cast me too grandly as an actual pupil of Tartini. I certainly did not need to become a Tartini acolyte to appreciate or be capable of the finesses of his style, and in any case, it is a style wholly unfit for the new compositions of an Italian Opera orchestra, that must play to the rowdy behavior of the whole house and needs collaboration and power to be effective.
*”Ask Mr. Puppy” aka Giuseppe Puppo, an 18th-century concert violinist, answers our questions about his career and times.