Boismortier Sonatas & Trios
Ricercar 381 | Le Petit Trianon
Boismortier, né Joseph Bodin, became a composer of drinking songs and worked professionally as a tax collector. But after 1720, he became increasingly interested in writing music. My first encounter with this composer was through a recording made by Musica Antiqua Köln with concertos. In this release, the menu features trio sonatas interspersed with solos for harpsichord. The liner notes, written by Stéphan Perreau, says of these works, that they are “the very image of the French Regency in their elegance and avid innovation.”
To my ears I related the trios immediately to some found on a recent recording entitled Conversations by Ensemble Nevermind, featuring the composers Quentin and Guillemain. For the harpsichord pieces, I thought of Royer, Rameau, or even early Haydn. All these comparisons really accomplish, however, is placing Joseph Bodin de Boismortier clearly in a French, late-baroque taste.
The ensemble pieces feature flute, cello, bassoon and violin. They vary the continuo among the pieces, using a palette of cello, harpsichord, and bassoon. The pieces therefore allow for some variety for the performers and well-distribute the efforts among the performers. The sonatas each employ counterpoint among the voices with well-wrought melodies. None of the music sounds too complex, which is not to say that it is all easily performed. Ensemble Le Petit Trianon manages to perform the ensemble pieces with good dynamic contrast and good balance among the players.
The recorded sound quality could have improved with closer miking of the instruments. There is a palpable distance detected between microphones and performers, so much so that closing my eyes, I imagine hearing the ensemble in a space from above or else from around a corner. This is less of a concern listening using loudspeakers, but I’d have preferred more clarity when using headphones.
For me, this was a good introduction to the light, charming chamber music of Boismortier and an apparently young ensemble.