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Jean-François DANDRIEU, Arcangelo CORELLI: "Opus 1"

Le Consort

rec: Oct 2018, Beauvais, Maladrerie Saint-Lazare de Voisinlieu
Alpha - 542 (© 2019) (61'45")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Cover, track-list & booklet

Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713): Sonata in b minor, op. 2,8; Sonata in G, op. 2,12 (ciacona); Sonata in C, op. 4,1; Jean-François DANDRIEU (1682-1738): La Corelli (arr Justin Taylor); Sonata in d minor, op. 1,1; Sonata in D, op. 1,2; Sonata in g minor, op. 1,3; Sonata in A, op. 1,4; Sonata in F, op. 1,5; Sonata in e minor, op. 1,6

Sources: Arcangelo Corelli, Sonate da camera a trè, doi violini, e violone, ò cimbalo, op. 2, 1685; Sonate a tre, op. 4, 1694; Jean-François Dandrieu, Livre de sonates en trio, op. 1, 1705

Théotime Langlois de Swarte, Sophie de Bardonnèche, violin; Louise Pierrard, viola da gamba; Hanna Salzenstein, cello; Justin Taylor, harpsichord, organ

Jean-François Dandrieu is almost exclusively known as a composer of organ music. He published one book of organ pieces and also several books of harpsichord works, but only his organ works have been recorded more than once, whereas - as far as I know - a complete recording of his harpsichord oeuvre is not available. From that perspective, it is quite remarkable that within the span of a few years, two recordings of his trio sonatas Op. 1 have been released. Only recently I reviewed a recording by the Ensemble Il Caravaggio, together with transcriptions for organ of some of the movements from these sonatas, played by Jean-Baptiste Robin. At the time of writing, I had not heard Le Consort's recording. Interestingliy, the two ensembles approach this part of his oeuvre from different angles.

Dandrieu was born in Paris and received his first music lessons from his uncle, Pierre, organist of St Barthélemy, and probably also from Jean-Baptiste Moreau. From 1705 until his death he acted as organist of St Merry, a post earlier held by the famous Nicolas Lebègue. In the last years of his life he also succeeded to the position of his uncle at St Barthélemy. The German theorist Marpurg states that Dandrieu was called "the German organist", probably because of his preference for counterpoint which was associated with the German style. That comes to the fore in his two collections of trio sonatas which were printed in 1705 and 1710 respectively.

Whereas the recording by the Ensemble Il Caravaggio and Jean-Baptiste Robin looks forward in combining the trio sonatas with later transcriptions, Le Consort is looking backwards, so to speak, by focussing on the source of inspiration for Dandrieu in his writing of his trio sonatas. That source was Arcangelo Corelli. This is documented here by including some of Corelli's own trio sonatas. Corelli was not the inventor of the trio sonata, but played a key role in the establishment of the genre and outlining its basic structure. Composers who modelled their trio sonatas after his sometimes derived from that structure, and so did Dandrieu, but he largely remains true to Corelli's example. The titles of the movements in Dandrieu's trio sonatas already indicate the influence of Corelli. Almost all of them are in Italian: adagio, allegro, largo, vivace. Only the Sonatas 1 and 3 end with a dance, called gigue. The latter is largely based on a drone. The Sonata No. 6 is an exception: two of the five movements are dances with a French title: allemande and gavotte; the fourth movement is called sicilienne. However, stylistically these sonatas are entirely Italian. That comes especially to the fore in the slow movements with their Italian pathos. They also include quite some harmonic tension. A number of fast movements, in particular - as in the oeuvre of Corelli - the second movements, have the form of a fugue. Dandrieu did not hide his admiration for Corelli: his Deuxième livre de pièces de clavecin includes a piece with the title of La Corelli, which is performed here in a transcription for a trio sonata line-up by Justin Taylor.

The performances by both Le Consort and the Ensemble Il Caravaggio reflect the Italian character of these trio sonatas. Le Consort probably goes a step further than Il Caravaggio in that the dynamic shading is a bit stronger and the contrasts between the movements is a little more marked. An interesting question is whether an Italian style of playing is in line with how such music was played in France in Dandrieu's time. I could imagine that the Italian traces were softened a little, when they were played by French players in the salons. However, that is probably hard to prove. However, given that trio sonatas were intended for amateurs in the first place, I question the use of an organ in the basso continuo. I wonder in how many salons an organ - albeit small - may have been available. I have also more than once questioned the shift from harpsichord to organ within a single sonata. That happens, for instance, in the performance of the Sonata No. 3 in g minor. For reasons I can't figure out, Justin Taylor plays a harpsichord solo at the end of the second movement, only to shift to the organ in the third. I find that rather odd. That is not the only liberty the members of Le Consort have taken. In the Sonata in A, op. 1,4 the last movement (vivace) is split into two sections, and in between the ensemble plays the third movement, a largo. The second section, which ends the sonata, is then entirely played pizzicato. In the Sonata in d minor, op. 1,1, the string bass plays pizzicato from start to finish. The liner-notes don't discuss these issues, and one can only guess why such decisions were taken. They did not convince me and are rather debatable.

Despite some issues, I have enjoyed this recording, which documents the quality of Dandrieu's trio sonatas. Le Consort is an excellent ensemble of which I hope to hear more. I consider the two recordings not as competitive, but rather as complementary, as they approach these pieces from different angles. Lovers of French music may want to have them both, and organ aficionados may certainly want to add the organ transcriptions to their collection.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

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