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François-André Danican PHILIDOR (1726-1795)
Six Parisian Quartets, L’art de la modulation
Sinfonia No.1 in G Minor [6:47]
Sinfonia No.2 in F Major [14:09]
Sinfonia No.3 in G Major [12:40]
Sinfonia No.4 in B-Flat Major [10:10]
Sinfonia No.5 in C Major [8:23]
Sinfonia No.6 in D Major [12:47]
Ars Antiqua
rec. Sommer Centre for Performing Arts, Concordia College, Broxville, New York, 2016

François-André Danican Philidor was a member of an illustrious French musical family, his brother Anne had founded the Concert Spirituel. It was his grandfather, Jean Danican, who first adopted the name Philidor after Louis XIII had used it as a nickname to describe him. Of Scottish origin, the name Danican or D’Anican being derived from Duncan, and if the legend holds to be true, the family were descendants of the family of King Duncan who was killed by Macbeth in 1040. He entered the court of Louis XV at the age of 6 and made his first attempt at composition at the age of 11. He travelled throughout Europe, adapting his compositional style as he went, this led to his music being regarded as quite Italianate in nature, and he spent nearly nine tears in London where he was friendly with the likes of Charles Burney, dying there later during the French Revolution. During his lifetime he was probably more famous as a chess master, a game he learnt as a boy whilst waiting to sing in the choir of Louis XV. He wrote an important treaty on the game and still has particular moves named after him today. This despite his reputation as an important figure in the development of the opéra comique.

Published on his return to Paris in 1755 his L’art de la modulation are regarded as a groundbreaking and innovative series of chamber works, which along with his chamber cantata, L’Eté, of the same year are the composers only known chamber pieces. These galant and witty pieces caused quite a stir amongst polite society in Paris, their conversational style in which he pitted the instruments against each other being seen as something different and unique in French music.

The music is beautifully crafted and exceptionally well performed. Although the performers are credited as ‘Ars Antiqua with Elizabeth Wallfisch’ on the cover it is the contribution of Anne Briggs on flute and Geoffrey Burgess on oboe which for me sticks out. Their period instruments have a beautiful smooth and mellifluous tone, something that is matched by the gut strings of the string players, making this a well balanced recording. The recorded sound is sympathetic and captures each instrument well. The notes by Mark Kramer, the group’s viola da gamba player, are excellent and set the music in its historical context, making this a most valuable and welcome recording.

Stuart Sillitoe



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