Concertos pour violon

The beginnings of the violin concerto in France
Ensemble Diderot, Johannes Pramsohler
Audax Records ADX13782

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Don’t let the disc’s title fool you into thinking that this repertoire is in any sense less than fully-formed. The names of Leclair and Corrette should inspire some confidence (as should that of the principal soloist and his ensemble) and their colleagues are not so very far behind.

Inevitably, the Italian concerto concept was viewed in France with no little suspicion, but determined and talented composers and the need for material to play at the increasingly popular public concerts (where operatic extracts were not permitted) combined to produce a body of accomplished music, from which we hear well-chosen highlights (though always complete works).

If the Leclair (world première recording, as is the Exaudet – both in E flat, curiously) is the stand-out, I also greatly enjoyed the Concerto in A by Jean-Baptiste Quentin. This is more of a sonata da chiesa with a very florid top line, though the opening contrapuntal largo is really lovely. The strong stylistic contrast of the concluding Corrette concerto comique is a brilliant piece of programming.

To be sure, there are moments when the influence of Corelli and Vivaldi is all too apparent, but that is also true in Bach and Handel. And the playing – chamber-scale forces – is absolutely first-class in every respect. This will not surprise those familiar with Ensemble Diderot’s discography.

The booklet essay (in English, French, German & Japanese) actually tells us about the music (a welcome change) as well as its context, though there is no information about the players beyond their names. But the ensemble’s website will tell you all you need to know.

David Hansell

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