Notes and Editorial Reviews
6 Sonates en symphonies
Marc Minkowski, cond; Les Musiciens du Louvre
BRILLIANT 93906 (56:42)
This recording was made in 1996, and subsequently released on Archiv 457 600-2. It’s great to see it at a discount, as the musical personality of Mondonville (1711–72) deserves to be better known. The considerable imaginative power of his work derives in part from a debt owed to the contrapuntal teachings of his teacher: his father, who
was also the organist of Narbonne’s Maîtrise de St. Just. The intricacy and ease of Mondonville’s counterpoint can be heard throughout these
Sonates en symphonies
, which began life as works for harpsichord with violin accompaniment. In that form, as published in 1734, they proved extremely popular. The composer’s own orchestration in 1749 remained in manuscript, however, presumably (if I may hazard a guess) because while there was an avid market among middle- and upper-class amateurs for chamber works, orchestras of comparable quality outside of a few courtly establishments were difficult to find. Possibly Mondonville secured performances from his friends, as both Paris and Versailles were blessed with a multitude of wealthy patrons vying for the luster of supporting the best artists.
I would like to hope so, as Mondonville didn’t simply re-orchestrate the work, but arranged it into three active, independent parts: divided violins and continuo. As the bassoon sometimes leaves the latter to function separately, this can on occasion make for music in four parts. His audiences must have been fascinated by the result in these early but highly sophisticated three-movement symphonies, and Mondonville, who was no fan of Italian music, perhaps took keen pleasure in beating Sammartini at his own game.
Not a melodically inventive composer, Mondonville was a past master of exploiting the subtleties of meter and rhythm. The
of the Sonate No. 2 places its emphasis on the offbeat, and plays 3/4 time against 6/8, among four independent parts. The various gigues are a series of studies in different aspects of perpetual motion, employing syncopation, varied textures, and rhythmic imitation with ingenuity. Harmonically there are few surprises, but those that appear evince signs of study well spent with Rameau’s scores. The piquant
of the Sonate No. 4 could pass for a piece by the latter, while a striking progression in the gigue of the Sonate No. 1 literally moves the home key abruptly from B? Minor to A Major, and back again several bars later. Mondonville always finds the means to keep things interesting.
So do Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, in a reading as notable for infectious vitality as for precision and clarity. This isn’t one of those mannered performances that would lead you to believe Baroque music is a solemn responsibility, but a matter of taking pleasure in fresh, worthwhile discoveries. Do try it. You won’t be disappointed.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Pieces de clavecin en sonates, Op. 3 by Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville
Les Musiciens du Louvre
Written: by 1734; France
Date of Recording: 1996
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