Sometimes it’s easy to forget that music is a business — even classical music. It’s something Joseph Bodin de Boismortier always remembered. And it made him wealthy.
Boismortier was active in the early 1700s and a contemporary of Rameau. He was one of the first composers to be successful without a patron.
Louis XV granted him a monopoly on music printing (which helped). And his own compositions delivered what audiences wanted.
Boismortier wrote mostly chamber music, for performance by professionals and amateurs. He wrote in the light, Rococo style that blended French and Italian influences. During his lifetime, Boismortier was extremely popular. As tastes changed, his music fell by the wayside.
Decades after Boismortier’s death, one critic wrote, “Even though his works be long forgotten, whoever might undertake the task of exploring this abandoned mine might well find enough flecks of gold to produce an ingot”.
The Cappella Musicale managed to find an entire album’s worth. This collection of instrumental music is both appealing and interesting. Boismortier may have composed with a light touch, but he was an excellent craftsman.
The ensemble presents a variety of works. The Flute Concerto in D major, Op. 38 No. 1 follows the Italian model (fast-slow-fast), but it’s a duet for two transverse flutes. The excerpts from the Op. 59 Suite de pieces de clavecin are elegant little miniatures of deceptive simplicity.
The dance suites have enough syncopation and energy that they’re, well, danceable. And the Trio Sonata in D major, Op. 37, No. 3 has some wonderful antiphonal passages.
The Cappella Musicale, collectively and individually delivers good-natured, spirited performances. Boismortier didn’t write for the ages — he wrote for the entertainment of his audiences. This recording is just that. Entertaining — and to an audience centuries removed from Boismortier’s target market.
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: The Court and Village Chamber Music
Cappella Musicale; Enrico Stuart, director
Brilliant Classics 96036