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He was born into a modest family, with a father, a former soldier, who had settled in Thionville as a confectioner. In Boismortier left Lorraine for Perpignan and established himself there as collector for the Royal Tobacco Excise Office, a calling remote enough from any musical employment. He remained nearly ten years in this position and has left us no trace of any musical activity, or at least no tangible evidence.
In leafing through the collections of serious and drinking songs published by Ballard at the beginning of the eighteenth century, we find, in October , a drinking-song by a certain "M. Composers do not write without preparation, so that he must have received, like his contemporaries, a solid technical foundation.
It is now known his teacher in Metz was Joseph Valette de Montigny , an accomplished composer of motets, and not Henry Desmarest On the recommendation of well placed friends, Boismortier wound up his current business and left Perpignan to establish himself, with his wife, at the court of the Duchesse du Maine, at Sceaux, then in Paris, where he received his first permission to publish on 29th February He was now finally able to issue his first books of duos for the transverse flute and his first French cantatas, written in Perpignan.
This was the start of a prolific career in the capital, a career both admired and subject to criticism. Jean-Benjamin de La Borde, the famous theorist, a contemporary of Boismortier, wrote a charming and realistic portrait of the composer in his Essai sur la Musique Ancienne et Moderne Essay on Ancient and Modern Music , published in Boismortier appeared at a time when people only liked music that was simple and very graceful.
This clever musician profited all too much from this fashionable taste and for the generality wrote numberless melodies and duets, to play on the flute, violins, oboes, musettes, viols and so on … This was a very substantial output but unfortunately he was too prolific in these light-weight pieces, some of which were particularly marked by pleasing passages. He so abused the good nature of his numerous buyers that in the end it was said of him: Happy Boismortier, whose fertile pen can monthly, without travail, father a volume.
Boismortier, in reply to these criticisms, said: I make money. This musician was pleasant, ingenious and good company: he made verses in the style of Scarron and some of these were current in society. Creatively prolific, Boismortier cannot but surprise us by the abundance of his compositions, works, to which may be added songs, individual scores, motets and a musical dictionary.
He was also a theorist, publishing a method for the flute and another for the pardessus de viole. He did not hesitate, following the custom of his time, and certainly through a taste for new combinations and experiments, to compose music for almost every instrument.
Nevertheless the greater part of his work is for the transverse flute, which, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, occupied, with the harpsichord, a leading position. He made use of the instrument in all possible and imaginable combinations. Victim, among so many others, of the Querelle des bouffons, he retired from the musical scene in about The latter was obliged to make verses for his living and died as a poet; the former has made a fortune from the large number of works that he has given the public.
These are bought without thought for their value; they only serve beginners on their instruments or some wretched middle-class people in the concerts with which they entertain their neighbours and fellows. It is true that the nearly 50, crowns resulting from these "harmonic products" could make more than one person jealous.
Bolsmortier developed, then, in a Paris that was in a turmoil, inundated with Italian music under the influence of its first precursors such as Couperin and characterised by a life devoted to the pleasures that the Regent happily cultivated.
During this period the great salons were transformed into more intimate apartments and everything conveyed the pretty rather than the beautiful, endless gracefulness, the search for which sometimes came near to affectation.
Boismortier was well aware of this change in sensibility and gave expression to it in his writing. Since , he had written duos for the unaccompanied flute Opp. Opus 7 of must have served as a preparatory exercise for the composer for the concertos for five flutes, for there was to be no other example in his entire output of such an instrumental combination.
As always with Boismortler, the elaboration of a new musical form, adapted to a particular instrument, is not without importance. In fact, even if later it was said that Boismortier was the first to have introduced the Concerto into France, he must have drawn inspiration from contemporary attempts.
Much acclaimed, it entrusted to the flute for the first time very long passages in semiquavers, passages that recalled the violin or oboe concertos of an Albinoni or a Vivaldi. There is nothing French about Opus This was, in fact, the first time in his career that Boismortier dared to divide his pieces into three movements, fast-slow-fast, and give titles and directions in Italian. If in the sonatas we might express doubts about the too French form or titles, here everything is resolutely Italian.
The Concertos for Five Flutes, to which Boismortier takes care to suggest a figured bass, do not fit completely the definition of the concerto proposed by Rousseau: Piece written for a particular instrument that plays alone from time to time with a simple accompaniment, after a beginning for full orchestra: and the piece continues thus, always alternating between the solo instrument and the orchestra.
Certainly in the pieces by Boismortier we do not find the same spirit of conflict between the parts, but it is rather a matter of chamber concerto than solo concerto. A first duo follows, often in thirds, with first and second flutes constantly answering each other in a clever use of virtuoso characteristics. The fifth flute, given figuration in the score, accompanies as a bass to this solo. All the parts come together again for a new tutti, followed by another antiphonal passage for third and fourth flutes, supported by the "bass".
The ending brings onto the scene all the actors, who often finish in unison. The slow movements generally entrust their theme to the first flute, while the other instruments, taking the ripieno part, accompany it in slower notes.
Boismortier turns again to the principle of the first movement for the finale of the work. Tonalities are perfectly suited to the melodic possibilities of the flute, G major, A minor, D major, B minor, A major and E minor.
Later, in , Boismortier included at the end of a collection of Sonatas en trio, oeuvre 37 Trio Sonata, Op. He is, therefore, noticeably more comfortable with the Handelian concerto grosso than the solo concerto. With Boismortier, care to be always innovative seems to be a determining factor in the development of his compositions.
The fashion was then, that the concerto and everything Italian was welcome. Corrette, Braun and Naudot were to follow this tendency and public taste to achieve, with Boismortier, the definitive establishment of the concerto form in France.
Jan de Winne Jan de Winne studied at the University of Ghent and at the Conservatoire, completing his degree in musicology with high distinction in At the Conservatoire he won first prizes in musical theory, transverse flute and chamber music. Thereafter he specialised in early music, continuing his studies at the Brussels Conservatoire with Barthold Kuijken. His interest in early instruments has led to his making flutes on models of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jacques-Antoine Bresch Jacques-Antoine Bresch began his studies at the Strasbourg National Regional Conservatoire, where he took first prizes in recorder, Baroque flute and chamber music and a diploma in early music.
He continued his studies at the Conservatoire du VII Arrondissement, with first prizes in the two instruments, before further study with Barthold Kuijken at the Brussels Conservatoire. There he was awarded first prize in Baroque flute. His earlier achievements included the award of first prizes in flute and in chamber music at the Boulogne-Billancourt Regional Conservatoire and a period at the Freiburg Musikhochschule. His interest in contemporary music has brought collaboration with contemporary composers and he has worked in new productions for Radio-France and the Groupe de Recherche Musicale.
The Instruments Jocelyn Daubigney plays a flute by J. Rottenburgh, c Anne Savignat plays a flute by A. Weemaels, , after L. Rottenburgh, c. Jan de Winne plays a flute that he made in , after L. Jacques-Antoine Bresch plays a flute by J. Vincent Touzet plays a flute by A. Joseph Bodin de Boismortier It is difficult to see how musicologists can consider Boismortier a minor figure, since he is, after all, the most prolific French composer.
Able, a writer of songs, gifted, a marvellous orchestrator who investigated the possibilities of every instrument, Boismortier is the Poulenc of the eighteenth century. I am a happy to defend this underestimated composer for the following reasons. In the first place his affinities with the Concert Spirituel and with Lorraine brought about my decision to record representative works by this man of the theatre and matchless chamber-musician from Lorraine.
Furthermore I cannot forget that in the eighteenth century Boismortier was responsible for some of the great moments of the Concert Spirituel. Every year at Christmas, for 25 years, his grand motet Fugit nox resounded in the Salle des Cent Suisse of the Palace of the Tuileries, confirming again the fame of a musician praised by all his contemporaries.
Whether if is because of the calm mists of early morning, or the lingering fog of November with its light and shade, the changing skies brought here by the ocean winds or the heat of July, whatever it is, Lorraine, with its golden heritage, its squares, the shade of its tall cathedrals, its valley or the dark groves of its great forests, produced and still produces some exceptional artistic talent.
The horrors of war ravaged the cities and countryside and had a long-lasting effect on the people and their land They also forged a popular imagery long before the invention of comics; the Images Epinal from a print factory in the Vosges were sold by pedlars throughout France, to the same places where later, leaving Phalsbourg, Erckmann and Chatrian were to go One must stop before Ligier-Richier and admire The Temptation of St Anthony by Callot or St John in the Desert by Georges de la Tour, remembering that people used to come from great distances to attend the funerals of the Dukes of Lorraine.
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6 Concertos for 5 Flutes, Op.15 (Boismortier, Joseph Bodin de)
BOISMORTIER: 6 Concertos for Five Flutes, Op. 15
Joseph Bodin de Boismortier: Six Concertos for Five Flutes