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Joseph Bodin de Boismortier

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier

Six Trio Sonatas, Vol. 1 (Op. 18/1-3) Two violins, organ continuo
Six Trio Sonatas, Vol. 2 (Op. 18/4-6) Two violins, organ continuo

Six trio sonatas, volume 1 (Op. 41/1-3) (Flute · violin · organ continuo)
Six trio sonatas, volume 2 (Op. 41/4-6) (Flute · violin · organ continuo)

Six trio sonatas, volume 1 (Op. 28/1-3) (Two oboes · organ continuo)
Six trio sonatas, volume 2 (Op. 28/4-6) (Two oboes · organ continuo)

Quinque sur l’octave (Four violins · basso continuo)

Six Quartet Sonatas,Op. 34 Vol. 1 (Three violins · organ continuo)
Six Quartet Sonatas,Op. 34 Vol. 2 (Three violins · organ continuo)


Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689–1755), occasionally referred to as the “French Telemann”, was perhaps the most prolific and experimental composer working in France during the period 1724–47. Ironically, until relatively recently his posthumous reputation, like that of his German counterpart, suffered on account of his prolificacy and from the fact that many of his compositions were written for amateurs. Today these are the very aspects that play a part in the rediscovery of Boismortier’s music: not only are many of his works still to be explored, but their not unreasonable technical demands render them accessible to a widely diverse group of musicians.

Boismortier contributed to all of the principal musical genres of the day, from theatrical works and sacred vocal compositions to songs (airs), cantatas, chamber concertos, suites, and sonatas (for one or two instruments and basso continuo, or for two or three unaccompanied instruments), as well as various other peculiarly French musical forms. He showed a marked predilection for instrumental music, and the majority of his compositions involve either the transverse flute (for which he also wrote an instruction method), the hurdy-gurdy, or the musette (small bagpipes), these being the most popular instruments used in amateur music making in early eighteenth-century French society. While much of his music is written in the “French style”, Boismortier was equally conversant in the “Italian style”; indeed, he can be credited with the introduction and/or diffusion of various Italian instrumental forms in France. And yet, unlike several of his compatriots, most notably Couperin, he showed no interest in integrating these two national styles: there is always a clear distinction between “French” and “Italian” compositions in Boismortier’s output. His compositions thus stand as a testimony, on the one hand, to the features of French popular music in the early decades of the eighteenth century and, on the other, to the salient characteristics of contemporaneous Italian instrumental music as perceived by French composers.


Michael Elphinstone: Boismortier and the Trio Sonata
Leaflet click here to download this Introduction (updated July 2015)
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