While there is no evidence to suggest that Joseph Bodin de Boismortier played the violin, a number of his works were written specifically for that instrument. These include sonatas for one violin and basso continuo (Opp. 20 and 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).
The least known of the above compositions (apart from Opp. 71 and 81, which are unfortunately missing), are the Op. 20 solo sonatas. These very fine works date from 1727. Written for a largely domestic and amateur market, they are much more technically accessible than the violin 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 far often superior to those of his peers. Revealing the unmistakable influence of Corelli’s Op. 5 sonatas , they resourcefully combine dance forms of the sonata da camera with more ‘serious’ movements of the sonata da chiesa, including several in ‘moto perpetuo’ style.
That Op. 20 has until now been ‘ignored’ is due to the fact that only three copies of the original publication are known to exist, and two of these remain in private hands; 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.