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Fanfare Magazine 34:2 (11/12 - 2010)
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Reviewer: Robert Maxham

Violinist Ingrid Matthews, harpsichord player Byron Schenkman, and gambist Margriet Tindemans presented a program of the music of Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre on Wildboar 9601, which I recommended for special collections in Fanfare 20:4. Their program overlapped that of La Rêveuse in the inclusion of the Sonata I in D Minor and the Sonata III in F, but I considered the most striking feature of those earlier performances to be “their uncompromisingly aggressive sonorities.” Le Rêveuse has now recorded three of the sonatas, as well as two others, both in A Minor, with two works for viola da gamba by Jacques Morel and with a transcription for theorbo of a brief harpsichord work by François Couperin.

In the
Suonata secunda, Stéphan Dudamel, playing a 2004 Amati-pattern violin by David Ayache, produces a tone that, like those of violinists such as Simon Standage and Fabio Biondi, synthesizes elements of what once passed as authentic period sound with a more modern one. In the six movements of this work, ranging in tempo and Affekt from the solemn opening Grave to the tangy final Presto, Dudamel and the ensemble play with a lush relaxation (notable in the third movement, an Aria, Affetuoso) that’s only faintly reminiscent of the pinched timbres and edgy manner of many earlier period performances. The composer designated these sonatas for solo violin with viola obligée and either organ, specifically (Suonata prima and Suonata secunda) or continuo, generally (it’s easy to understand why movements like the final Presto would appeal to the group’s co-founder, gambist Florence Bolton). Sonata I, also cast in six movements, opens with a movement with no tempo indication that makes a stately impression similar to that of the opening Grave of the Suonata secunda. As did that work, this one alternates fast and slow movements, with the fast ones, like the second- or the fourth-movement prestos (with the ensemble providing crunchy underpinning to the solo part), bubbling with ebullient energy and the slower ones marked by noble expressivity. The sequential melodic lines, reminiscent of Corelli’s, may be, as Catherine Cessac’s notes suggest, relieved by an admixture of French elements, but those elements seem to spice an essentially Italian entrée. Like its counterpart in the Suonata secunda, the smoothly flowing Aria makes a particularly genial impression in these performances.

Bolton takes a turn as soloist in two pieces from Morel’s
1er Livre de Pièces de Viole from Paris in 1710, the first a somewhat serious Prelude and the second a dance-like but almost equally serious Rondeau, “Le Folet.” The Suonata prima, with only four movements, seems much slighter than its fellow work in A Minor; the Sonata III, the first sonata in the collection in a major key, returns to the multimovement format with five movements, the second, a multisectional one (Presto and Adagio). The fourth-movement Aria, again a striking piece in its own right, features a dialogue-like game of catch with jaunty motives; the sonata concludes with an Adagio. The ensemble’s co-founder and theorbo player, Benjamin Perrot, appears as soloist in Robert de Visée’s transcription for theorbo of Les Sylvains
, a sensitive—and sensitively explored—miniature by François Couperin, before Jacquet de La Guerre’s Sonata IV (also in a major key) brings the program to a joyous close. Since three of the sonata’s four movements boast more than one section, the entire work seems like an alternation of brief, contrasting sections.

While Matthews’ set offered all the sonatas from the 1707 collection, La Rêveuse’s includes only four of them. But the differences lie deeper than the simple choice of repertoire. Matthews and her ensemble played the works with a greater liveliness overall, although also with somewhat pinched, nasal timbres. So, Mirare’s collection affords a fresh look at a rarely encountered composer: a somewhat different program in a somewhat different manner. Recommended, like Matthews’, for special collections; those who have already acquired Wildboar’s anthology should find enough that’s new in this one to justify its addition to their libraries.


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