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John Story
Fanfare, November 1996

the Naxos performances enchanting and have discovered yet another composer to explore and study. © 1996 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

John Story
Fanfare, October 1996

The liner notes for this release make the worst possible case for Boismortier. Quoting from contemporary accounts, Boismortier is accused of being overly prolific, facile, and catering to the debased tastes of a dull bourgeoisie. The writer of the note calls his work conventional in form and key pattern. It certainly makes one want to plunge right in and hear for oneself, I must say. So what is this conventional, facile music actually like? Enchanting is the word that springs most readily to mind. I haven't enjoyed an album of Baroque flute music this much in years.

Published in 1742, these six sonatas in alternating major and minor keys are written for flute and harpsichord. Like Bach's gamba sonatas, the harpsichord part is fully composed and apparently there is no suggestion of a continuo bass instrument. There are only two dance movements in the six sonatas and all but the first are in three movements. The flute is the Kathleen Battle of instruments, beautiful but covering a fairly narrow emotional range. The present works exploit the various moods and colors of the Baroque flute, and Boismortier is an inspired melodist to boot. For reasons that escape me the recording presents the sonatas in the order 3,4,1,2,5,6.

Boismortier has a fairly extensive discography, including another recording of these very sonatas. I was unable to track down that release but the present performers do the works proud, adopting a rhetorical approach to articulation and phrasing that makes the music come compellingly to life. The instruments, which are period, are recorded as acoustic equals so important lines in the harpsichord part are not buried as is often the case (although the model for the harpsichord predates the sonatas by over a hundred years- something I always wonder about in period-instrument recordings given the rapid progression of instrument development). The recorded sound is clean and bright. This would be a distinguished release at any price. At the Naxos price it is a wonderful way to explore a charming avenue of the French Baroque.

Alan Ulrich
San Francisco Examiner, August 1996

Schultz is one of the Bay Area's most visible and audible period instrument performers, appearing with Philharmonia and other organizations. In 1986, he founded American Baroque, now launched on an extensive contract with Naxos to record music of the 18th century.

This traversal of sonatas by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755) is the first fruit of that arrangement and tasty it is, too. Noted for his prolific output, the composer significantly extended the repertory for the transverse flute. The harpsichord comes first in the title, and Boismortier inscribed the keyboard parts with considerable flair. Although these sonatas do not add up to music of enormous consequence, Schultz and Schenkman bestow royal treatment upon them. The sound captures both instruments vividly; and at Naxos bargain price ($6-$7 for 70 minutes of music), the package, like the playing, is fairly irresistible.

Robert Strobl

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1685-1755) composed six sonatas for transverse flute and harpsichord: Op. 91 No. 1 in D Major; No. 2 in g minor; No. 3 in G Major; No. 4 in e minor: No. 5 in A Major; No. 6 in c minor. In 1752 D'Aquin said of him: "The highly productive Mr. Boismortier can certainly be counted as one of the most notable composers; of course, his reputation would have been without blemish, if he had only had the decency not to publish all of his works." However traverso player Stephen Schultz, founder and director of the ensemble American Baroque, and harpsichordist Byron Schenkman have devoted themselves to this music. This CD before us is the recording debut for this group on the Naxos label (although only two members of the group are represented here) and the beginning of a long-term contract that will bless us with three to four recordings a year

This new contract certainly is exciting because American Baroque is not exactly unknown to us. Unforgettable is their Paris Quartets CD by Telemann or the original compositions by and with Roy Weldon. And now they bring us a moving and refreshing interpretation of high-baroque flute music -- each note a revelation, each measure a little piece of art all on its own. One can only sit down and melt with the music.

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