The first decades of the 18th century France saw much change.
The reign of Louis XIV came to an end, and with it the dominance
of the traditional French style and the opposition to Italian
influence. The recorder was losing ground to the transverse flute,
the cello was starting to undermine the status of the viola da
gamba as the main low string instrument and composers started
to use the Italian form of the trio-sonata.
way composers dealt with this development was different. Some,
like the violinist Jean-Marie Leclair, were ready to take over
the virtuosic Italian style. Others, like Marin Marais, resisted
the growing popularity of the Italian taste. Most were trying
to mix French and Italian styles and opted for the 'goût réuni'.
The most famous of them was François Couperin.
disc seems to prove that Louis-Antoine Dornel was also an enthusiastic
advocate of the Italian form of the trio-sonata. Three of the
pieces recorded here are from the op. 3, 'Sonates en trio'.
They are from 1713 and are among the first trio-sonatas published
in France. But not everything is what it seems: Dornel still
preferred the traditional French dance movements. The Sonata
II from op. 3 contains four of them: allemande, sarabande, gavotte
and gigue. But there is some Italian influence, in particular
in the imitation between the parts, which is inspired by the
trio-sonatas of Corelli.
a short time ago I reviewed a disc of the ensemble Musica Barocca,
playing Dornel's op. 1, 'Livre de simphonies' (Naxos 8.570826).
This opus ends with a quartet, the 'Sonate en quatuor' for three
treble instruments and bc. It was left out of that recording
because of a lack of space, and I assume it is no coincidence
that it is included on this disc. The op. 1 was published in
1709, and in this quartet the Italian style is clearly discernible,
in particular in the first movement with its strong contrasts.
It is played here on three recorders, and the players realise
the dynamic shades as much as recorders allow. I have expressed
some reservation about the use of recorders in this repertoire
in my review of Musica Barocca's recording. I don't see any
reason to change my mind on the basis of this performance. There
is however no doubt that the three recorder players make the
most of it and deliver a very engaging performance.
disc contains two sonatas from op. 2, which consists of six
sonatas for violin and six suites for transverse flute. In these
pieces Dornel follows the typical French tradition of writing
character pieces. The Sonata IV is called 'La Forcroy', a reference
to the composer Forqueray. The Suite No. 3 contains several
character pieces, like 'L'angélique', 'Le Caron' and 'La Chauvigny'.
Such pieces are also in the 5th Suite from the 'Pièces de Clavecin'
which was published in 1731.
to op. 3, the Sonata VII is written for three treble instruments
without basso continuo. In the first movement two of the instruments
are playing unisono. In the other movements they split and play
their own lines.
have listened to this disc with great pleasure. The playing
is generally excellent and the players fully explore the character
of these pieces. Even though the recording by Musica Barocca
is pretty good, Passacaglia shows a bit more imagination and
zest. I have already mentioned the splendid performance of the
quartet which opens this disc. The chaconne which closes the
Sonata 'La Forcroy' is given a very exciting performance. In
this and in the rest of the programme the players show a very
good sense of rhythm. The only point of criticism is probably
that the articulation in the harpsichord suite could have been
a little sharper. The contributions of Reiko Ichise should be
specifically mentioned, in particular in her obbligato part
in the fourth movement of the Sonata IV from op. 2.
is remarkable that within such a short time two recordings of
music by Dornel have been released. They show that his music is
substantial and is well worth exploring. These two discs complement
each other, and - despite my criticism of Musica Barocca's recording
- nobody interested in French baroque music should miss them.
Johan van Veen