Conversations Jean-Baptiste QUENTIN (1690-c1750)
Concerto a 4 parties, op. 12,1: Largo [4:25]
Quatuor (Sonata III) in a minor, op. 15,3 [15:24] Louis-Gabriel GUILLEMAIN (1705-1770)
Sonata III in d minor, op. 12,3 [15:25] Jean-Baptiste QUENTIN
Sonata IV à 4 parties in e minor, op. 8,4 [9:54] Louis-Gabriel GUILLEMAIN
Sonata IV in d minor, op. 17,4 [12:42] Jean-Baptiste QUENTIN
Sonata en trio V, op. 10,5 [12:16]
Concerto a 4 parties, op. 12,1: Adagio [3:58]
(Anna Besson (transverse flute), Louis Creac'h (violin), Robin Pharo (viola da gamba), Jean Rondeau (harpsichord))
rec. 3-6 September 2015, Notre Dame de Bon Secours, Paris, France ALPHA CLASSICS 235 [74:09]
The title of this disc is programmatic. Conversation was the nature of music-making in France under the ancien régime. One of the two composers on the present disc, Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, even published a collection of chamber music under the title Six sonates en quatuors ou conversations galantes (op. 12, 1743). The title also shows that the form of the quartet - quatuor in French - was very common in France in the second quarter of the 18th century. That was also the time Georg Philipp Telemann, a staunch admirer of the French style, composed his 'Paris quartets'. Some of these were written during his stay in Paris in 1737/38. There is a pretty good chance that he has met the two composers represented here. He at least must have been acquainted with their music.
Little is known about Jean-Baptiste Quentin. The years of his birth and death are not known. New Grove only says that he flourished between 1718 and around 1750. Jean Saint-Arroman, in his liner-notes, assumes that he was born in 1690. In 1715 he was a player of the dessus de violon at the Académie Royale de Musique and in 1738 the quinte de violon. In 1724 the first collection of music from his pen came from the press, a set of ten sonatas for violin and bc. It was followed by quite a number of editions with sonatas for violin or transverse flute and bc, trio sonatas for two violins or flutes and bc and six books of trio sonatas and quartets. The last publication was his op. 19, which is from 1750. After that year his name doesn't appear anymore in the records of the Opéra, neither as an instrumentalist nor as a pensioner, which leads to the assumption that he must have died around 1750. As a performer Quentin played frequently at salons in Paris, together with the most famous musicians of his time, such as the flautist Michel Blavet and harpsichordists such as Rameau, Daquin and Duphly.
There is quite some similarity between Quentin's quartets and the 'Paris quartets' by Telemann. Both were representatives of the goûts réunis, the mixture of the French and the Italian style. The galant and conversational character of Quentin's quartets refers to the former, but they also include expressive elements, which show the influence of the Italian style. A nice example is the adagio from the Quatuor III from op. 15 which is full of pathos. The programme opens with the largo from the Concerto à quatre parties from the op. 12. It attests to Quentin's mastery of counterpoint: the harpsichord starts the proceedings, joined later successively by the viola da gamba, the violin and the flute. It is a piece which Nevermind played as an encore at a concert, which I attended earlier this year and which made me wanting to hear more from Quentin.
Much more is known about Louis-Gabriel Guillemain. We don't know where he was born, but he received his education as a violinist in Paris and then went to Italy to study with Giovanni Battista Somis, who was also the teacher of Jean-Marie Leclair. In the 1720s and 1730s Guillemain worked in Lyons and Dijon respectively as a violinist. In 1737 he was appointed musicien ordinaire to Louis XV and developed into one of the highest-paid musicians at court. His performances as a violinist seem to have been confined to private concerts before the King and Queen. He hardly ever played as a soloist at the Concert Spirituel; it has been suggested that he was too nervous to play before a large audience. As he liked to spend a lot and in his later years drank heavily he was highly in debt when he died. That happened in 1770: his body was found on 1 October, stabbed fourteen times. "His death was quickly ruled to be suicide, which seems a somewhat astonishing conclusion", Saint-Arroman writes dryly.
Guillemain's printed music comprises exclusively instrumental music: sonatas for violin and bc, pieces for two instruments without bass, sonatas for harpsichord with a melody instrument ad libitum, trios and quartets. They show that Guillemain was also a representative of the 'mixed taste', but the Italian style is predominant. The title pages of several collections specifically refer to le goût italien. In comparison to Quentin's quartets the pieces by Guillemain recorded here are more virtuosic. A telling example is the allegro moderato which opens the Sonata III from the op. 12 mentioned above. The Sonata IV from op. 17 (1756) closes with a highly dramatic presto, which is far away from the restraint and moderation, which once was the hallmark of the French style.
This is the first disc of Nevermind, an ensemble of four brillant young French players. They deserve much praise for presenting themselves to the public with relatively unknown repertoire. The advantage is that they don't need to fear any competition, because there are hardly any other recordings of this kind of repertoire. However, even if there were, they would have nothing to fear. Their playing is simply superb. Technically their performances are impressive, but more importantly they have captured the character of this chamber music extremely well. These are musical conversations at the highest level. I have been all ears while listening to this disc. The music is of fine quality and the performers keep you on your toes.
This is a very promising debut and I am very much looking forward to future projects.