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Alexandre Pierre Francois Boely: Musique De Chambre

Boely / Quatuor Mosaiques / Ens Baroque De Limoges
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Laborie   Catalog #: 5   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Performer:  Eric LebrunChristophe Coin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mosaïques String QuartetLimoges Baroque Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BOËLY String Trio in C, op. 5/2 1. Mélodies for Cello and Organ 2,3. No. 1 in c; No. 2 in E; No. 3 in G. String Quartet in a, op. 27 1. Movement for String Quartet in E 1. String Sextet in D 4 1 Mosaïques Read more Qrt; 2 Christophe Coin (vc); 3 Eric Lebrun (org); 4 Limoges Baroque Ens (period instruments) LABORIE 05 (74:26)


This was my first time hearing anything by Alexandre Pierre François Boëly (1785–1858). Though I’d come across his name before, I’d not previously encountered his music. It’s hardly surprising, for the French wrote his epitaph long before he was dead. Consider not that he was born 15 years after Beethoven, or even that he lived at a time in post-revolutionary France when the music scene was dominated by the opera extravaganzas of Meyerbeer and Halévy, the “new” music of Berlioz, and the salon recitals of Chopin, Liszt, and Paganini. Consider, instead, that Boëly, a pianist, organist, and occasional violist, was a reactionary elitist who was scorned and shunned by his contemporaries for his belief that no music more recent than Haydn or Mozart was worth an assignat , and that France’s finest musical hour had come and gone with François Couperin.


Installed in 1840 as organist at St. Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris, he fed the congregation a steady diet of little other than Couperin, Frescobaldi, and Bach for 11 years until he was finally sacked in 1851 for trying the congregants’ patience. Thereafter, he spent the remainder of his life giving private piano lessons. He must have been quite a character. It should come as no surprise that Boëly’s reactionary elitist in waiting, Saint-Saëns, revered him. To be sure, Boëly had some friends and supporters, a diminishingly small circle that included Marie Bigot, a onetime teacher of Mendelssohn; the violin virtuoso and pedagogue Pierre Baillot; the piano virtuoso Friedrich Kalkbrenner; and composer/pianist/publisher Johann Baptist Cramer. Much of Boëly’s music was not published in his lifetime, though his works, somewhere around 300, are not insignificant in number. They consist mainly of solo pieces for piano and organ, and chamber works for various combinations of instruments, but also among them are scattered a handful of sacred choral works and, at least according to the CD at hand, a symphony. Little of it has been recorded.


If one approaches the pieces on this disc with the foregoing in mind, one can appreciate Boëly’s music for what it is: imitation Haydn, and fairly early Haydn at that. The String Trio (1808), A-Minor Quartet (1824–27), and the quartet movement in E Major (1804) are reminiscent of Haydn’s 1771 op. 17 set of string quartets, which came a year before his breakthrough op. 20 set. Thus, even the earliest of these Boëly pieces, the E-Major Quartet Movement, looks back over three decades; and by the time we get to the A-Minor Quartet, completed in the year Beethoven died, five decades of music history had passed Boëly by.


Here are the music’s shortcomings: There’s altogether too much reliance on parallel motion, with the instruments simply doubling each other’s lines at the unison or octave, or in thirds or sixths; repetition of thematic motives and fragments is excessive and seems to substitute for any substantive development; and lastly, phrase lengths are uncommonly short, leading to discontinuous, stop-and-go spurts that often do not pick up logically where the previous phrases’ cadences left off.


Offsetting the weaknesses, Boëly’s music does have its virtues: It’s tuneful, occasionally adventurous harmonically, rhythmically buoyant in fast-paced movements, and quite affective in slow ones. The latter virtue, however, can turn overindulgent, as in the second of the Trois Mélodies for Cello and Organ, which, in the playing of it, comes across like a soppy, sentimental salon piece. Whether that was Christophe Coin’s intention or not, I don’t know, but he certainly spares no portamento or louré bowing to make his point. I laughed out loud when I first heard it, because it reminded me of the critic who described a cloying performance of something or other as “reeking of Ovaltine.” In truth, I don’t believe that Boëly intended any of the three undated Mélodies as salon pieces. Their devotional character and the fact that they employ organ suggest that they were written to accompany private prayer interludes during church services.


The Sextet of 1827, at least according to the almost nonexistent notes printed on a single folded page (more on this in a moment), is an arrangement of a symphony the composer is alleged to have written, but no further details are provided. Haydn is still the model, albeit a somewhat later Haydn, perhaps of the op. 33 quartets.


All of the performances on this disc are really superb. I’d go so far as to say fantastic, and from one who is not often persuaded by period-instrument recordings that is saying a lot. For my money, if I had to pick a period-instrument string quartet that exhibited the spit and polish and tonal attractiveness of many of today’s modern-instrument ensembles, the Mosaïques Quartet would probably be it, though I’d have to allow that the Festetics Quartet runs it a close second. Cellist Coin is the common denominator here, for he is a member of both the Mosaïques Quartet and the Limoges Baroque Ensemble, which performs the Sextet, as well playing the solo cello parts in the Trois Mélodies.


My one serious complaint about this release relates to its presentation. My hackles were already raised to find not one word of English anywhere. But to say that the entire booklet note is in French would be to grant that it is a booklet with notes. Nothing accompanies this album but a flimsy folded sheet that lists the titles and tracks of the pieces, names the players, and provides the sketchiest sketch imaginable of a composer who even the most sophisticated music lover is likely to know next to nothing about.


All hope was not lost—or at least so I thought—when I noticed reference to a Web site promising fuller biographical information: ebl-laborie.com/boely.pdf. What I found there was a 24-page document containing an in-depth monograph on Boëly, his times, his music, and opinions about him by his contemporaries, as well as detailed information on the instruments used in the recording—alas, all of it useless unless you are fluent in French.


I hate this sort of thing. Naxos did it recently with a new release of songs by Fanny Mendelssohn, posting the poems and translations on the Web. This is a way for record companies to get off doing things on the cheap, and Laborie Records here does as much of a disservice to its French-speaking consumers as it does to its non-French-speaking potential buyers. It doesn’t matter what your nationality; I believe all music lovers have one thing in common, and that’s the desire to hold a printed booklet in their hands and follow it along while they’re listening to the music. People are not going to run to their computers to read a 24-page dissertation either before or after they’ve listened to a CD. And unless you’re an über -audio techie who streams CDs from your computer to your state-of-the-art surround-sound A/V system, you’re not likely to play a CD of songs on your computer so that you can follow the texts posted on a Web page.


That’s my rant for this review. For some unusual musical fare and for outstanding performances, the current disc is highly recommended.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

1. Trio for strings in C major, Op. 5/2 by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mosaïques String Quartet
Written: 1808 
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 24 Minutes 1 Secs. 
2. Mélodie for cello & organ No. 1 in C minor (from Trois Mélodies) by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Performer:  Eric Lebrun (Organ), Christophe Coin (Cello)
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 22 Secs. 
3. String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 27 by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mosaïques String Quartet
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 20 Minutes 35 Secs. 
4. Mouvement for string quartet in E major by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mosaïques String Quartet
Written: 1804 
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 7 Minutes 47 Secs. 
5. Mélodie for cello & organ No. 2 in E major (from Trois Mélodies) by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Performer:  Eric Lebrun (Organ), Christophe Coin (Cello)
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
6. Sextet for strings in D major by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Limoges Baroque Ensemble
Written: 1827 
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 18 Minutes 4 Secs. 
7. Mélodie for cello & organ No. 3 in G major (from Trois Mélodies) by Alexandre Pierre Boëly
Performer:  Eric Lebrun (Organ), Christophe Coin (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Limoges Baroque Ensemble
Date of Recording: 10/2008 
Venue:  Studio La Borie, Solignac, France 
Length: 2 Minutes 43 Secs. 

Sound Samples

String Trio in C major, Op. 5, No. 2: I. Allegro
String Trio in C major, Op. 5, No. 2: II. Adagio
String Trio in C major, Op. 5, No. 2: III. Minuetto: Allegro
String Trio in C major, Op. 5, No. 2: IV. Finale: Presto
3 Melodies: No. 1 in C minor
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 27: I. Allegro
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 27: II. Andante piu tosto allegretto
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 27: III. Scherzo: Allegro molto
String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 27: IV. Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo
Mouvement in E major
3 Melodies: No. 2 in E major
Sextet in D major: I. Allegro
Sextet in D major: II. Andante sostenuto
Sextet in D major: III. Scherzo: Allegro molto
Sextet in D major: IV. Finale: Allegro
3 Melodies: No. 3 in G major

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