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The Consort

Lisa Beznosiuk

Volume 74, Summer 2018

Simon Balicourt Sonatas in B minor
and C major, Second set, nos. 1 and 2,
for flute and basso continuo
Edition HH, HH442.FSP, Launton, 2017
(pbk, £14.50)
ISMN 979 0 708146 47 6

Simon Balicourt Sonatas in F major
and C minor, Second set, nos. 3 and 4
for flute and basso continuo
Edition HH, HH438.FSP, Launton, 2017
(pbk, £14.50)
ISMN 979 0 708146 29 2


Eighteenth-century London was a hive of musical activity with its operas, public and private concerts and publishing enterprises, and it attracted Europe’s finest composers, singers and instrumentalists. George Frideric Handel and a series of famous (and infamous) Italian singers were the most celebrated, successful characters in a steady stream of musicians who settled and flourished in the fertile ground of the musical capital. By comparison, the less well-known flautist Simon Balicourt (1706-57) has not received much attention – until now.

As editor, Professor Michael Talbot informs us in his excellent introduction to this second set of Flute Sonatas that Balicourt was born in Brandenburg, Germany and moved to London in 1735, where he enjoyed an active solo career until his death. After publishing a first set of eight sonatas privately (also available from Edition HH) the second set was published posthumously in 1760 by John Johnson of Cheapside and is presented here in a first modern edition. And what a very welcome addition these sonatas are to the flute repertoire! The music is inventive and original, while drawing on a host of recognisable French and Italian styles and influences. Sonata no. 1 in B minor ends with a delightful A tempo di Gavotta reminiscent of Blavet; theatrical, rhetorical gestures are developed using elegant variation and harmonic tension (as in Sonata no. 4 in C minor); tender melodic movements are followed by exuberant and dazzling Italianate Allegros (as in no. 2 in C major).

The dramatic chord progressions and simple, operatic melodies of the first movement of no. 2 (which cry out for embellishments by enterprising players) ensure that this particular sonata will become one of this reviewer’s favourites. Elsewhere, stylish rhythmic dances alternate with virtuosic passagework requiring the fastest double-tonguing. However, perhaps most striking of all are the occasional sudden, imaginative harmonies which foreshadow the classical Sturm und Drang of the later eighteenth century and make one dearly wish that Simon Balicourt had left us more music.

Some players might find the keyboard part a touch over-realised in places, particularly if using period instruments. There might be an argument for publishing the flute and figured bass on one part, as in the original edition (available at IMSLP): this would certainly assist those flautists wishing to add ornaments or improvise their own cadenzas. Nevertheless, the quality and scholarship of Edition HH is of the highest order.

We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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