Volume 75, Summer 2019
Simon Balicourt Sonatas in A major and G minor (1st set, nos. 5, 6),
for flute and basso continuo
ed. MICHAEL TALBOT
Edition HH, HH447.FSP, Launton, 2017
ISMN 979 0 708146 54 4
It has been a real treat to discover Simon Balicourtís sonatas for flute and basso continuo, thanks to Michael Talbotís new editions. All sixteen sonatas are available from Edition HH and are published in pairs. I initially came to know the music of Balicourt (1706-57) through his second set of eight sonatas, which were published posthumously in 1760 by John Johnson and are available on IMSLP. The original edition of Balicourtís first set of sonatas is harder to gain access to. It was published privately for subscribers in February 1750 and Talbotís new edition has been made from a source that is currently held in the Rowe Music Library at Kingís College Cambridge and reproduced in a microfilm at Nottingham University library. While it is a shame that this original edition of the first set of sonatas is not so readily available online, this means that Talbotís edition is all the more welcome.
Simon Balicourtís first set of Eight Solos for a German Flute and a Bass was advertised in late 1749 as being Ďdesigned for the Improvement of such Lovers of the Instrument, as are desirous of acquiring a full Expression and Execution thereon; as likewise interspersed with several easy Movements fit for middling Proficientsí. ĎA full Expression and Executioní are the order of the day in Balicourtís sonatas in A major and G minor reviewed here. Balicourt himself was clearly a fine flautist. The A major sonata opens with a virtuosic Vivace that includes some delightful interplay of rising flourishes between flute and continuo. The final Allegro comodo also puts the flute playerís technique to the test with a large number of arpeggiated figures. The short Andante second movement may be one of Balicourtís Ďseveral easy Movementsí, though in reality it is neither Ďeasyí nor short of interesting details in rhythm, articulation and ornamentation.
After the fireworks of the A major sonata, the G minor is the more expressive of the two. It opens with a fairly substantial Largo which starts with short, breathless phrases that give way to longer sequences and show off varied articulations. The music is highly improvisatory and allows the flautist a great deal of freedom if desired. This is followed by a dancing, Italianate Allegro which features extended violinistic passagework. To finish, Balicourt presents two minuet-like dances, an Affettuoso and a Poco Allegro, in a composite structure. This music is quite delightful and allows for plenty of ornamentation in the repeats.
Talbotís fine scholarship is evident in his introduction which provides a context to Balicourtís sonatas and discusses the various editorial decisions made. For those who are curious to find out more about Balicourt (as I was!), Talbotís article in The Consort, vol. 74 (2018) entitled ĎEsteemed one of the Best Masters of the German Flute: Simon Balicourt, an Instrumentalist and Composer in Georgian Londoní is a fascinating read. The Edition HH publication has a clear layout; it comes with separate flute and basso parts as well as a full score with Balicourtís figures and a realisation by Talbot. The realisation is probably more useful for those flute players choosing to play these sonatas with piano, as period performers will probably want to make their own. I highly recommend this edition of Balicourtís sonatas to any flute player who wishes to discover and perform this highly inventive and original music from Georgian London.
We are grateful to theThe Consort for permission to reproduce this review.