Louis-Gabriel Guillemain: Flute Quartets (Sonates en quatuors) Opus 12

Floral design

88:57 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Resonus RES10222

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t would be a veritable statement to say that G. P. Telemann helped popularise the quartet form in the French capital with his elegant, well-crafted Nouveaux Quatuors or Paris quartets of 1738. But there was no shortage of home-grown talent that felt the creative impetus to add their contributions to this genre. One such person was Louis-Gabriel Guillemain, born in Paris in 1705, and after some basic violin studies in the capital, went off to Turin, as did J.-M. Leclair and J.-P. Guignon, to study under a star pupil of Corelli, G. B. Somis. At just 24, Guillemain was working at the opera house in Lyons. After some 13 years as first violinist at Dijon’s Academie de Musique, he finally returned to the capital in 1737!

He was said to have possessed a dazzling facility on the violin (“main petillante”) rivalling, even surpassing Leclair. His Caprices may have inspired those of Paganini. These exuberant, elegant and sprightly chamber sonatas, live up to their soubriquet “Conversations galantes et amusantes” (also given to his Opus 17), exuding a kind of vibrant, imitative loquacity, yet never losing the scintillating thread of the musical discourse! This Opus 12 set of six does also have passages which seem to nod and wink in a quasi-Telemann mode, but then zip along to some uniquely challenging twists and turns in the music. Published in 1743, they were performed in the swankier salons as one might expect, and at the famous Concert Spirituel, to great acclaim and approbation. The extremely attentive players in Fantasticus and guest flautist, Wilbert Hazelzet, respond to the many challenging “twists and turns” after the “Allegro moderato” beginning all six sonatas. This quartet of finely-honed musicians captures the vivacious galanterie and witty discourse in these excellent pieces of exemplary French Baroque. The lively and skilled contours of this music belie the tragic end to this bright, highly virtuosic (shooting) star of the capital, who was said sometimes to be too shy and over-sensitive to perform his own works; despite the bouts of profligate spending which kept him in constant debt, his “dazzling” hand left a fine musical legacy.

David Bellinger

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