French Baroque Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard
Ensemble Diderot regulars Johannes Pramsohler (violin) and Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord) have released a 2-disc recital of sonatas for keyboard and violin by the likes of several French composers:
- Jean-Joseph Cassanéa Mondonville
- Louis-Gabriel Guillemain
- Jacques Duphly
- Michel Corrette
- Claude Balbastre
- Luc Marchand
- Charles-François Clément
Of these names, I know some of them as through their solo harpsichord pieces (suites): Duphly, Balbastre, Marchand; and others for their string writing: Guillemain, Mondonville, Corrette. The present format therefore is a refreshing novelty. Whether or not these sonatas are arrangements or written freshly for this combination of two instruments, they each are follies dressed in French clothes that are reasonable foils to other late-baroque violin/keyboard sonatas.
I often thought of Bach’s pieces (BWV 1014-1019) when listening to this album.
As usual for Audax, Grisvard and Pramsohler provide excellent notes for this album. But the music making is the real star: too many pieces have fast themes in which the (usually) right hand of the keyboard must be in lock step with the violin. As much as I can remember two performers being so tight, Grisvard and Pramsohler play deceiving us into believing they are but one performer. The second challenge with music written this way is using a non-equal tuning system (here, the notes cite Rousseau at a/415) which is fixed on the harpsichord then matched so well on the violin. The Marchand piece (opus 1, no. 1) offers a remarkably different style than I’ve just described, with the melody going to the violin and the harpsichord providing a regularly-moving accompaniment. Admirable, nevertheless, is their collaboration.
In the end, the album illustrates an interesting story of the rise of novelty in the French high baroque of sonatas for violin and keyboard. That these players are bringing to light six world premier recordings in their pursuit is an especially rich topping for this musical sundae.