While there is no evidenceto suggest that Joseph Bodin de Boismortier played the violin, a number of his works were written specifically for the instrument. These include sonatas for one violin and basso continuo (Op. 20 and Op. 81), two violins and continuo (Op. 18), three violins and continuo (Op. 34), and the Quinque sur l'octave for four violins and continuo, as well as six sonatas for two violins without bass (Op. 71).
Unfortunately, the Opp. 71 and 81 sets are missing; of the remainder, the Op. 20 solo sonatas are the least known. These very fine works, dating from 1727, were written for a largely domestic and amateur market and are much more accessible technically than the sonatas then being published by Boismortier’s compatriots, virtually all of whom were professional violinists. But even if Boismortier’s writing for the violin can be considered conservative, the sonatas are not devoid of technically challenging passages, and musically they are often far superior to those of his peers. Revealing the unmistakable influence of Corelli’s Op. 5 sonatas, they resourcefully combine sonata da camera dance forms with more ‘serious’ movements of the sonata da chiesa, including several in moto perpetuo style.
That the Op. 20 set has hitherto been ‘ignored’ is due to the fact that only three copies of the original publication are known to exist: two remain in private hands and the whereabouts of the third — the British Library — has never been greatly publicized. It is hoped that the present volume will help give these sonatas the recognition they undoubtedly deserve.