David J. Golby
Volume 74, Summer 2018
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier
Six Quartet Sonatas op. 34, vol. 2 (nos. 4-6)
ed. Michael Elphinstone
Edition HH, HH429.FSP, Launton, 2017 (pbk, £26.95)
ISMN 979 0 708146 31 5
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755) is an excellent example of the ambitions and particular strengths of Edition HH. Boismortier has been virtually forgotten by the vast majority of modern musicians and audiences, but was highly influential and, in his own way, innovative. His output contains numerous gems that are ready to be rediscovered by those who wish to look beyond the established repertoire. Edition HH and Michael Elphinstone have together embarked upon a substantial endeavour to promote the Frenchman’s works.
These publications currently include various trio and quartet sonatas, as well as the intriguing Quinque sur l’octave, ou espèce de dictionnaire harmonique (meaning ‘Quintet based on the octave, or a type of harmonic dictionary’) four four violins and continuo, in which Boismortier employs a chaconne to illustrate and elaborate upon the ‘rule of the octave’ – instructions on how to harmonise each note of the diatonic scale. In addition, the publisher’s website has a page dedicated to the ‘French Telemann’, including a very useful twelve-page downloadable guide to ‘Boismortier and the Trio Sonata’ by Elphinstone. How many other publishers would go to this trouble?
Having stated in last year’s edition of The Consort (vol. 73, p. 139) that I was eagerly anticipating the second volume of Boismortier’s Quartet Sonatas op. 34, I was delighted when they dropped onto the doormat over the summer. I really enjoyed getting to know three of them last year, in order to review them for The Consort, and the second volume does not disappoint. There is little value in repeating the same background here, save to reiterate the strong case for Boismortier’s return to the teaching / rehearsal room and concert platform. The accessibility of these pieces for players of limited technical facility (and the associated commercial expediency of the composer) belies any suggestion that great art must always exude complexity.
Once again, there is a great deal of accomplished counterpoint that is gratifying to play (we found them to be a complementary pairing with Mendelssohn’s early op. 13 quartet, with the third violin part manageable on the viola). The excellent Introduction by the editor (in English with a German translation which is preceded by a facsimile of a portrait of Boismortier by Jean Ranc) is identical to that in the edition of Nos. 1-3 and Michael Talbot’s expertise is utilised once again through the continuo realisation. All in all, I recommend this volume without reservation. David J Golby
We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.