musica Dei donum
Joseph GEHOT (1756 - c1795): Six Trios, Opus V
Bacchanalia Baroque Ensemble
rec: July 2009, New York, Lefrak Concert Hall
Eroica - JDT3466 (© 2012) (58'39")
Cover & track-list
Sonata no. 1 in C;
Sonata No. 2 in F;
Sonata No. 3 in d minor;
Sonata No. 6 in D
Laura Thompson, transverse flute;
Louise Schulman, viola;
Myron Lutzke, cello
You may wonder why a disc of less than 60 minutes playing time comprises only four of the6 Trios op. 5. The answer is that these trios were not originally written for this scoring. Joseph Gehot composed them for two violins and cello. "Here, we offer the listener four of the Six Trios best suited to the flute. The principal violin part is played on the flute; the second violin part is played on viola by Louise Schulman; and the cello part is played as written by Myron Lutzke".
Who was Joseph Gehot? He was born in Brussels and educated as a violinist. He seems to have been a child prodigy: at the age of just 11 he was presented to Prince Charles of Lorraine who was staying in Brussels at the time. Pierre Van Maldere briefly took care of Gehot; he died in 1768. Charles de Lorraine continued to support him until 1780. He then started to make concert tours through Germany and France. He also played in England, where he seems to have found the protection of the Duke of Pembroke. His compositions were printed in several cities and he also wrote some treatises. Moreover he was active as teacher; he taught the violin at the Opera House, Hanover Square.
In 1792 he decided to move to the United States, together with some of his colleagues, among them James Hewitt. Their first concert in New York found an enthusiastic reception, but a concert series which he organised soon after turned out to be a failure. At the instigation of Alexander Reinagle he moved to Philadelphia where he became first violinist at the New Theatre. Nothing is known about his activities therafter, and it seems he died in poverty some time after 1795.
Gehot's oeuvre is rather small and consists almost exclusively of chamber music for strings. The six 6 Trios op. 5 date from 1781. They belong to the category of diverting music which was produced in large amounts in the second half of the 18th century. The Trios 1, 2 and 6 are in three movements, all ending with a rondo. The middle movements have the tempo indication andante; here they could have been taken rather more swiftly. Features of this kind of music are the quick repetition of notes and by parallel movement. There are very few passages in which all three instruments have independent parts: mostly one instrument has a kind of solo passage with the other two instruments moving in parallel. The first treble part - here the flute - often has the lead, but the other instruments are certainly not reduced to an accompanying role. Several movements include notable solo episodes for the cello, especially the opening allegro of the Trio No. 6 in D. Harmonically these trios are unremarkable as one would expect in such music. Only in the andante of the Trio No. 2 in F do we hear a short passage with some chromaticism. The Trio No. 3 in d minor is an exception in that it has two movements: andante cantabile and fugue. The first movement leads to the second, and one gets the impression that this sonata is a kind of prelude and fugue.
This is definitely not 'great' music, but that doesn't mean it should be overlooked. These trios are nice to listen to on a quiet afternoon. That is probably the purpose for which they were intended.
The ensemble's name is intriguing; it probably shouldn't be taken too litterally. "The musicians of Bacchanalia strive to offer performances as expressive and lively as those heard in the 18th century (...)", its biography says. I wonder whether that has been realised here. True, these pieces don't give much opportunity for musical fireworks. Even so, I could imagine a little more flamboyance, especially in regard to dynamics. I am curious to know what this music would sound like if played in the original scoring. The recording is somewhat disappointing: it is lacking in presence and the volume is rather low. The booklet tells us everything that is known about Gehot - which isn't very much - but omits any analysis of the music.
Johan van Veen (© 2012)