Mondonville’s Trio Sonatas portrayed by Ensemble Diderot

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COMPOSERS: Mondonville
LABELS: Audax Records
ALBUM TITLE: Mondonville
WORKS: Trio Sonatas, Op. 2
PERFORMER: Ensemble Diderot
CATALOGUE NO: ADX 13707

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Mondonville was among the most gifted and popular composers of the generation following Rameau and Leclair. Like Leclair he was a brilliant violinist who also made significant contributions to the development of the French sonata, as well as being a successful composer of operas and sacred music. His most innovative sonatas are contained in his Opp. 3 and 5, which feature fully written out harpsichord solos to which, in the earlier one, a violin may be added and, in the later one, a violin with soprano voice. Recording companies have been kind to these sets but, until now, have overlooked Mondonville’s set of six Trio Sonatas, Op. 2. Thus Ensemble Diderot provides us with a genuine world premiere recording. Like Couperin and Leclair before him Mondonville was skilled in the blending and juxtaposition of Italian and French idioms. In faster movements Italian elements play a more conspicuous role with lively, often virtuosic writing for the two violins and a contrapuntally-based movement in each Sonata. More typically French are the aria-like character and cantabile writing of the slow movements. It is here, above all, that echoes of Leclair can be found and especially perhaps in the beautiful third movement of the G major Sonata, one of two here in which a flute is substituted for the second violin in accordance with the composer’s suggestion.

Ensemble Diderot is an accomplished group which plays and thinks homogeneously. Only the opening Adagio of the E minor Sonata sounds a little unsettled. Otherwise this is imaginative and pleasingly ornamented playing of music that is well worth a detour. Recorded sound is clear and appropriately intimate.

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Nicholas Anderson