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French Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin
Philippe Grisvard (harpsichord)
Johannes Pramsohler (baroque violin)
rec. 2016, SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern, Germany
AUDAX RECORDS ADX13710 [58.38 + 51.45]

On Audax Records this double set comprising of eleven Sonatas for harpsichord with violin accompaniment reflects the popularity given to the harpsichord in early-to-mid eighteenth-century France. This esteem was particularly marked in Paris, a city evidently having in excess of a hundred harpsichord manufacturers.

The court of Louis XIV (The Sun King) had helped establish a music tradition in France and throughout the Régence of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans (regent period 1715-1723) music was reevaluated, going through a period of discovery. A large group of composers were resolved to write music for its own sake, independent of a descriptive title, programme or associated text.

It is explained in the booklet notes that Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville who in 1740 published a set of 6 Pièces de clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violin, Op. 3 inspired fellow composers to also write chamber pieces in a way that would transform French music. Although Mondonville’s title may infer otherwise both the harpsichord and violin are playing as equal partners. Mondonville’s set adopts the form and flavour of the Italian sonata and Jean-Philippe Rameau set of 5 Pièces de clavecin en concerts published the following year was clearly influenced by the form. Here the soloists Philippe Grisvard and Johannes Pramsohler have selected Mondonville’s first and fifth sonatas from the Op. 3 set. Michel Corrette is represented by a single sonata from his Sonates pour le clavecin avec un accompagnement de violon (1742) works mainly in the French style. A year later Charles-François Clément introduced his Sonatas en trio un clavecin et un violin written in the French style and a single sonata is played here. In 1745 Louis-Gabriel Guillemain published his Pièces de clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violin, op. 13 and “owing to the energy and modernity” the two soloists have chosen to include three of the sonatas in the Italian style. In 1747 Luc Marchand published a set titled Pièces de Clavecin avec accompagnement de violon, hautbois, violoncello au viole, divisees en six Suittes dont les deux dernieres sont pour le clavecin seul. Here in each of the sonatas the harpsichord is accompanied by a different instrument and the soloists have selected the first suite scored for harpsichord and violin, a work styled with elements of both the French and Italian form. Claude Balbastre is represented by a single sonata from his 3 Pieces de Clavecin en Sonatas avec accompagnement de violin published in 1748. An Italian form dominates the outer movements with a French style in the central movement. Two single sonatas are included by Jacques Duphly assembled from his Troisième Livre de Pièces de Clavecin written in the French style and published in 1756.
Specialists in period informed performance, both soloists play instruments that have an attractive tone and satisfactory body to the sound. Philippe Grisvard’s harpsichord is a copy by Philippe Humeau (Barbaste 1980) after Antoine Vater (Paris 1732) and baroque violinist Johannes Pramsohler plays a Pietro Giacomo Rogeri (Brescia 1713) fitted with gut strings and period bow. Grisvard and Pramsohler perform these sonatas beautifully, providing fresh and uncommonly stylish accounts. The playing has discernment and concentration yet there is ample vitality in the quicker movements. Recorded at SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern the partnership benefits from sound quality that has clarity, presence and is well balanced. In the booklet Grisvard and Pramsohler have written a detailed essay which is both interesting and highly informative.

Quite simply this selection of French sonatas for harpsichord and violin could hardly be played better. Including five works stated as being as world premiere recordings this album will certainly make a first-class addition to any collection of Baroque chamber music.

Michael Cookson

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de MONDONVILLE (1711-1772)
Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 3
Louis-Gabriel GUILLEMAIN (1705-1770)
Sonata No. 5 in D Major, Op. 13*
Jacques DUPHLY (1715-1789)
Le de Casaubon, La Du Tailly, La de valmallette
Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795)
Sonata No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 25
Louis-Gabriel GUILLEMAIN
Sonata No. 6 in G Minor, Op. 13*
Claude BALBASTRE (1724-1799)
Sonata I in G major
Luc MARCHAND (1709-1799)
Première Suite in A Minor, Op. 1*
Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de MONDONVILLE
Sonata No. 6 in A Major, Op. 3
Jacques DUPHLY
Ouverture, La de May, La Madin
Louis-Gabriel GUILLEMAIN
Sonata No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 13*
Charles-François CLÉMENT (c. 1720-1782)
Sonata I in C Minor*

Stated as world première recordings*



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