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Chamber Music by Boëly

available at Amazon
Boëly, Chamber Music, Quatuor Mosaïques, Ensemble Baroque de Limoges, C. Coin, E. Lebrun

(released on April 27, 2010)
Laborie (Naïve) LC05 | 74'26"
We warmly recommend the recordings and live performances of Quatuor Mosaïques, for anyone not immediately turned off by the sound of period instruments and historically informed performance practice. In this new release, Christophe Coin brings in some musicians from his larger ensemble, the Ensemble Baroque de Limoges in a selection of chamber music by Alexandre Pierre François Boëly (1785-1858). Recorded on the group's private label, Laborie Records (distribution by Naïve), the sound is lush and detail-oriented, not too close for comfort but including the sharp breaths of the musicians and some extra-musical sounds of bow attacks. Boëly grew up in Versailles (his birthday, April 19, was just celebrated earlier this week) and the musical life of its court, as the son of a singer in the Chapelle Royale who also taught the harp in Versailles. A classicist in the age of Romanticism -- worse, a champion of the outmoded contrapuntal music of Couperin, Frescobaldi, and J. S. Bach -- his reputation suffered, but the music heard here justifies a reexamination (there are some online scores, including music for piano, organ, and a Mass for Christmas Day).

We owe the opportunity to the research of the Centre de musique romantique française in Venice, and to a conference devoted to Boëly's music at the Sorbonne in 2008, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of his death. (This is the second recent release we have noted to be inspired by the recently founded CMRF, after the Onslow disc from Quatuor Diotima reviewed earlier this week.) One of the selections featured here has been edited in a modern edition: for the others, the musicians worked from their own transcriptions or directly from manuscript sources, adding to the sense of historical discovery. Boëly's music might be compared to Schubert's, in that he continued to use traditional forms but while enlivening his harmonic idiom with more adventurous chromatic diversions.

The D major sextet, arranged by the composer from his own symphony, and the single movement for string quartet, a tender Adagio sostenuto, are certainly worth discovering. Three melodies, Mendelssohnian songs without words "for cello with the accompaniment of expressive organ" (unearthed in a library in 2005 by Florence Gétreau, and performed here by Eric Lebrun on the colorful, recently restored Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Chapelle de Conflans) are sprinkled through the selections. Listening to the fine trio and quartet also included on this disc, it is charming to think that, like Haydn, Mozart, and a few other composers, Boëly (a fine pianist and organist) was also known to play the viola part in his own chamber works. Do not be disappointed by the very slender printed booklet, at least as long as you do not bridle at the thought of downloading the extended liner notes [all in French] online.


jfl said...

The all-French liner notes, you mean?

Charles T. Downey said...

Did I not mention that all the essays are in French? That could be a drawback for some people. ;-)