Mr. de Sainte Colombe le Fils

(1660? - 1720?)

French Composer and viol player. Son of M. de Sainte-Colombe, and undoubtedly his pupil, he settled in England, probably on account of his (Protestant) religious views, and seems to have been highly esteemed in his adoptive country. He was in Edinburgh in the first half of 1707, teaching viol to the Scottish Lady Grizel Baillie (1692-1732) -- in the same city that now, by the way, houses two of the three manuscripts collections of Sainte-Colombe the elder brought back to Scotland by the Maule brothers, young Scottish noblemen. The only other firm evidence placing young Sainte-Colombe in Britain is a 1713 notice in a London gazette of a concert, to be given on the 14th of May, "for the benefit of Mr. St. Columbe." His works are written for a six-string viol, which strongly indicates composition in England where the violists had not taken up the seventh string introduced by his father and common in France by the early 1700s. The manuscript of the Six Suites was probably compiled between 1703 and 1707, starting after the elder Sainte Colombe died, in 1701 at the latest. The younger Sainte-Colombe might have come to England by this time. Of Sainte Colombe's viol pieces, a full thirty-six survive in a large anthology ( MS A 27) collected by Philip Falle (1656-1742), a canon of Durham, and now housed at the Durham Cathedral Library. Falle, who traveled to Paris and the United Provinces, brought back a number of viol manuscripts, among them works by Marin Marais, Johann Schenck, Carel Hacquart, and Jean Snep, from which he copied out his favorite passages. MS A 27 also includes various pieces, mostly French, many unpublished and otherwise unknown. Among these are Sainte Colombe the younger's, to which graces were added in a different ink after the manuscript was first copied. This may suggest that Falle knew the composer personally, or even that he may have studied with him.

Notwithstanding that his works were undoubtedly written in England, and use the traditional English six-string viol, they belong to the French tradition in viola da gamba music, rather than the English (the instrument was falling into disuse in England when he lived there.) The elder Sainte Colombe's influence, both as father and -- likely-- teacher is very much in evidence, both in composition and instrumental technique. Though written at the beginning of the eighteenth, young Sainte Colombe's music was deeply rooted in seventeenth century tradition. This is not to suggest any lack of brilliance and originality in the younger composer. The son clearly retains something of his father's improvisational verve, but places it in a more balanced, less "baroque" framework. Of the two, it is likely the son who had the greater compositional skill, but one based on a foundation he owes to the older man.

A Partial Mr de Sainte Colombe Discography |  Purcell and his Contemporaries