BARGAIN OF THE MONTH
William BOYCE (1711-1779)
Trio Sonatas (1747)
Trio Sonata No. 1 in A minor ¹[5:45]
Trio Sonata No. 2 in F major [9:14]
Trio Sonata No. 3 in A major ¹ [7:21]
Trio Sonata No. 4 in G minor [7:41]
Trio Sonata No. 5 in D major ¹ [6:56]
Trio Sonata No. 6 in B flat major [6:38]
Trio Sonata No. 7 in D minor ¹ [7:48]
Trio Sonata No. 8 in E flat major ¹ [9:01]
Trio Sonata No. 9 in C major ¹ [7:46]
Trio Sonata No. 10 in E minor [7:58]
Trio Sonata No. 11 in C minor ¹ [7:46]
Trio Sonata No. 12 in G major [7:45]
Trio Sonata No. 13 in A minor ¹ [7:36]
Trio Sonata No. 14 in F major [8:39]
Trio Sonata No. 15 in D major ¹ [13:32]
The Parley of Instruments (quartet or orchestra¹)/Peter Holman
rec. October 1995, no location specified
HYPERION DYAD CDD22063 [61:07 + 61:51]
Fifteen years on these highly persuasive performances still bring a terrific amount of charm and easygoing lyricism to the table. True, you can seek an alternative, such as that provided by Simon Standage and Collegium Musicum 90 (Chaconne CHAN0648) whose one to a part performances are consistent and different to the varied quartet and orchestral expansions to be heard here - but I don’t think you will necessarily find Standage’s performances the more charming, though they do tend to be more spun out and superficially expressive.
The Parley of Instruments and Peter Holman preferred, back in October 1995, to alternate quartet and orchestral performances of the Trio sonatas. There is some evidence that not only were the Trio sonatas performed orchestrally but that some at least were devised for larger forces. Note too that Hyperion includes the three sonatas, numbered 13-15, that survive in manuscript, though not in Boyce’s hand, at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and were copied by Boyce’s pupil Samuel Wesley. They were not included in the 1747 publication of the Sonatas. Standage doesn’t include them, sticking to the canonic twelve.
Seemingly divided between odd and even sonatas into putative orchestral and quartet forces these performances work very well indeed. All the fugues for instance fall in the odd numbered sonatas and are played orchestrally, the bulk of the virtuoso writing falling in the even (quartet) sonatas. If one has reservations about this then one had better acquire the Standage.
One listens with great enjoyment, however this particular cookie is crumbled. The splendidly projected (orchestral) fugue in No.1 is adeptly projected, its succeeding finale vibrant, effortlessly melodic. Boyce also confounds expectations as to ordering of movements. Within a broadly Sonata da Chiesa and da Camera schema he shuffles movements about. In No.2 for instance an Andante vivace is followed by a very brief Adagio and then by two fast movements, the concluding one a non troppo Gigue. Things are kept alive, routine is kept at bay, and the sonatas don’t fall into predictable patterns. The opening of the Third sonata is especially lovely; I suggest you try this first to see if it floats your melodic boat. It’s played orchestrally with perfectly judged weight, and is a high example of Holman and the Parley’s acute sensitivity for texture and phraseology. But this is not to underestimate the grave March of No.4, which receives the same scrupulously generous level of characterisation as do all these many movements through the fifteen sonatas. Sample therefore the Affetuoso finale of No.6 or the noble seriousness of the Canone of No.9. Note too now well balanced are upper and lower strings in the Largo of No.10.
Boyce can turn out a theatrical hornpipe too, rather better indeed than his younger theatrical contemporary Samuel Arnold, whose Polly has just been recorded and contains a plethora of such things. The fluting fiddle in the opening of No.13 is full of brio. If these uncollected sonatas are the product of Boyce’s youthful infatuation with Corelli then they are nevertheless full of good things - vigour, masculinity, and refined terpsichorean sensitivity.
Given the forgoing this idiomatically played twofer makes renewed demands on lovers of Boyce’s very individual and engaging works.
This idiomatically played twofer makes renewed demands on lovers of Boyce’s very individual and engaging works.