French Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin

Philippe Grisvard, Johannes Pramsohler
110:23 (2 CDs in a hardbacked booklet)
Audax Records ADX13710
Music by Balbastre, Clément, Corrette, Duphly, Guillemain, Marchand & Mondonville

This recital gets off to a absolute flyer with Mondonville’s outstanding op. 3/1 in G minor, with both players comfortably equal to both the technical and musical challenges. And note the overall title: this is a collection of Pièces de clavecin en sonates avec accompagnement de violon. Mondonville blazed this trail with his op. 3 (published 1740, though very probably circulating in m/s before that) and his pioneering work was most assiduously developed by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain (1705-70). Three of his op. 13 sonates  receive world premiere recordings here and the notes rightly draw attention to the virtuosic writing for both instruments and the difficulty of creating a duo performance as opposed to a competition. They succeed with great flair, even though both they and their instruments are on the limit of the period’s demands. Most of these sonates  speak with an Italianate (if not fully Italian) accent, though Duphly retains his native language in both the music and his movement titles and these subtleties, too, can be heard in the playing. There’s also some thoroughly enjoyable wackiness (Luc Marchand).

The overall presentation is quite lavish, with the two CDs enclosed in the endpapers of a small (jewel-case size) hardback book and notes in five languages. It is a small irritant that these deal with the music in chronological rather than performance order but I will be forgiving as it is such a relief to read English notes from a foreign source that are idiomatic in their expression. Finally, the recording offers as good a balance of the instruments as I have ever heard in this combination. I rarely give five stars across the board, but see below!

David Hansell

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