Francoeur

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Francoeur
LABELS: Calliope
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, Book 1/7 & Book 2/6, 10 & 12
PERFORMER: Ensemble Ausonia
CATALOGUE NO: CAL 9888
Few 18th-century French composers were more distinguished in their day than Francoeur – master of music at the Paris Opéra, raised to the nobility by Louis XV. Yet he is nowadays virtually forgotten; not one of a score of stage works is recorded, and these four sonatas are world premieres on disc.

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Each begins with an archetypal French adagio, saturated in rhythms derived from the spoken language, and dripping with ornaments. Ensemble Ausonia provides various continuo options, of harpsichord, theorbo and bass which, rather surprisingly, change between movements – in the First Sonata theorbo alone accompanies a charming Allemande, while the following Courante acquires the 16-foot weight of double bass continuing, it’s claimed, an earlier French tradition. After a dreamy Sarabande, each phrase hanging suspended in the air, the final energetic Rondeau pauses in an unexpected cadenza-soliloquy before the end. Mira Glodeanu reflects in turn every expressive extreme, passionate and reserved, thoughtful and abandoned.

The sonatas succeed admirably in their purpose of amiable entertainment and, at best, exceed it – for instance, No. 12 in E minor is unexpectedly a richly coloured trio sonata with viola da gamba as the second soloist.

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The recording is fresh and immediate despite the rather over-generous acoustic of a Belgian church. George Pratt