Joseph Bodin de Boismortier is one of those "forgotten" composers who left
a mark on his era but not on posterity. While some comments describing his
music say that he was "more prolific than learned, more bad than mediocre",
Boismortier, who wrote works for every imaginable instrument and combination
of instruments, was indeed a talented composer. Perhaps the fickle 18th century,
a time when tastes changed as often as kings, found it difficult to embrace
such a talented composer because he didn't fit in? Nevertheless, his services
were in great demand - perhaps France's most prolific composer, he is called,
in the liner notes, the "French Telemann".
While many of Boismortier's works may have been simplistic (out of the some
130 volumes of his compositions, this is certainly possible), these suites
for two flutes are delightful. Developing such a wide range of harmonies
and counterpoints, the two instruments play together at times and in
juxtaposition at others. While the basic sound they present is similar to
that of much early 18th century French music, the unique combination of the
two instruments is quite interesting. Some of the movements sound clearly
like harpsichord music - where one flute is playing a lower, "left hand"
part, and the other playing a higher "right hand" part. In other movements,
the two instruments play in canon, or in fugue, or in direct imitation of
each other. But in all cases, the atmosphere these suites present is
All relatively short (from about 5 to 10 minutes each), these suites demonstrate
the full range of styles used during this period. Whether French (op. 8),
Italian (op. 25), gallant (op. 47) or rustic (op. 17 and 27), they are rich
in melodic and rhythmic invention. It must be admitted that successfully
composing such works, for two monodic instruments, and the same instruments
as well, is no mean feat, but Boismortier's suites never lack imagination.
From the emotion of the slow movements to the energy of the faster movements,
this music is full of joy.
The two musicians, Stéphan Perreau and Benjamin Gaspon, show a real
understanding of the rhythmic nature of these works, and one can easily imagine
the pleasure they must feel while playing them. (Perreau, also a musicologist,
has just written (in French) the first ever biography of Boismortier.) While
not necessarily virtuoso pieces, these works call for a great deal of subtlety
and nuance in balancing the sound, and they succeed admirably.
What a pleasure it is listening to this recording! The sound is so perfect,
with the two flutes balanced correctly, and their nuances all clearly heard.
Listening to this on headphones makes it even better - the positioning of
the two instruments allows the listener to fully appreciate the subtle lines
of these works.
The liner notes are quite interesting, giving a good introduction to
Boismortier's life and works. The only negative comment is that the disc
is relatively short at just over 48 minutes - this music certainly left me
This is a beautiful recording, quite surprising, of some unexpectedly compelling
music. Highly recommended, for anyone interested in discovering a little-known
facet of French baroque music.