Antoine Forqueray is said to have composed over three hundred works for his instrument, the bass viol. Of these, none has survived in autograph manuscript form. Apart from a handful of pieces in collections dating from his lifetime, only twenty-nine works attributed to him have come down to us, compiled by his son Jean-Baptiste (1699 -1782), he too an excellent viol-player. These pieces, to which are added three others composed by Jean-Baptiste (La Angrave, La Du Vaucel, and La Morangis ou la Plissay), are ordered in five Suites and were published in 1747 in two volumes :Pieces de viole avec la basse continue (two viols and harpsichord), and Pieces de viole mises en pieces de clavecin (an arrangement of the former for solo harpsichord). •
When considering these collections, one is faced with two as yet unanswered questions. Are the works really by Antoine Forqueray? Is Jean-Baptiste the true author of the harpsichord arrangements, or are they rather the work of his second wife, Marie-Rose Dubois, who was apparently an accomplished harpsichordist? Be that as it may, the Forquerays' domestic situation was sufficiently afflicted by trial and tribulation as to cast some doubt over Jean- Baptiste's motives for publishing the works. •
The harpsichord arrangements of the viol pieces retain all the qualities of the original, whi1e introducing highly imaginative modifications which make them into some of the most refined and audacious works of the French harpsichord repertoire. Forqueray maintains the low range of the pieces "to preserve their Character". This would have allowed the French instruments of the time, which were at their zenith, to resound magnificently. At the same time, he strove to ornament the harpsichord bass part as much as possible, by filling it in with idiomatic virtuoso passages. Hence, what was virtuosic for the viol remains so for the harpsichord, as is exemplified by the last verse of the rondeau titled Jupiter.