Brillance Indéniable

The Virtuoso Violin in the Court of Louis XV
Sonatas and Symphonies by Louis-Gabriel Guillemain
Alana Youssefian & Le Bien-Aimé
Avie Records AV2412

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This release came to me as a ‘reviewers’ package’ so it is not possible to provide the usual observations on the overall presentation and format. However, what I can say is that the supporting material I do have (in English only) is helpful and devoid of the ridiculous mistakes that have be-devilled many of the CD booklets I have seen recently.

The programme contrasts three of Guillemain’s virtuosic Op.1 sonatas with three of his more genteel and ingratiating ‘symphonies’ – works scored for a trio sonata ensemble and thus attractive to a domestic market as well as being playable with doubled parts by an orchestra. The composer was quite a colourful character, it seems: a virtuoso player, but ‘crippled’ by performance nerves; a lover of fine food, wine and furnishings; a high-earner; yet ultimately brought low by debt and alcoholism. He died from (probably self-inflicted) stab wounds.

This starry ensemble plays splendidly, though I do wonder whether the cello pizzicato is composer-requested or moments of performer whimsy. This rococo/galant idiom can sometimes seem a little banal but here it never does. The flashes of high-octane virtuosity in the sonatas help, of course, but overall the charm – a much under-rated virtue – of both music and performances holds the listener’s attention.

At a time when such charm is especially welcome, this disc has proved to be a congenial companion.

David Hansell

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