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The Consort

Jeremy Barlow

Summer 2022

Lewis Granom:
Six Flute Sonatas op. 7,

for flute and basso continuo
ed. Helen Crown
Edition HH, HH524.fsp, Launton, 2021
(pbk, £35)
ISMN 979 0 7081 8535 2

‘Boyce and Granom want only Italian names, to be our most favourite Composers’ wrote a London critic in 1753. It may seem incongruous today to bracket the two names, one familiar and the other largely forgotten, yet Lewis Christian Austin Granom (c.1700-1782) had a high reputation in the mid-eighteenth century. A collection of his songs attracted 560 subscribers, William Boyce among them. Granom’s output as a composer dates from the 1740s and 50s and, songs apart, consists entirely of flute music: duets, trios, sonatas and concertos. He had achieved renown as a solo flautist earlier in his life, but in the 1730s appears to have focused on teaching; an odd career path for a gifted young performer one might think, but during that period the transverse flute supplanted the recorder as a fashionable instrument for gentlemen amateurs, who paid well for lessons from eminent performers. Unusually for a musician, Granom himself achieved gentlemanly status through his second marriage to a rich widow, Dame Osbaston Sophia More, in 1735.

Granom’s virtuosic sonatas op. 7 (1755) stand apart from the quantity of relatively easy flute music published in England for the burgeoning amateur market; they make technical demands that would have challenged most aspiring flautists. Take for example the opening Largo of the first sonata. It starts easily enough, with a beguiling phrase that invites a slow four-in-a-bar tempo. But in bar five the player comes up against a flurry of demisemiquaver sextuplets and then, in the second half of the movement, hemidemisemiquaver duplets. Even if the sonatas would have proved too hard for Granom’s amateur students, they advertised his abilities as a performer and thus may have helped to increase his teaching practice.

As editor Helen Crown notes, trills abound in the sonatas; the movement just mentioned contains more than forty ‘tr’ symbols. Some years later, Granom devoted nineteen pages to trill fingerings in his treatise Plain and Easy Instructions for Playing on the German-Flute. Five of the six sonatas are in the congenial baroque flute keys of G major, D major and E minor. The remaining sonata, in F major, involves additional cross fingerings, and here Granom shows a little mercy to the player, adding ma no troppo to the allegro indication for the trill- and demisemiquaver-laden second movement. A slow, simple third movement follows and provides an opportunity for the performer’s own embellishments on repeats. In Sonata 3, the final variation of the concluding minuet consists of bravura passage-work that ends on an applause-provoking g’’’, a note unprecedented in English flute music. The sonatas demand an audience.

Stylistically, Granom stands on the cusp of the baroque and the style galant. Two of the sonatas follow the four movement slow-fast-slow-fast format of the baroque sonata da chiesa; the remainder have three movements, with Sonata 5 taking the fast-slow-fast form of the emerging galant overture and symphony. Galant mannerisms occur throughout the set and include a short opening phrase that starts and ends on the tonic, frequent use of triplets, long appoggiaturas, and melodic syncopations. Yet Granom avoids banality through a confident sense of direction and harmonies spiced with judicious chromaticisms. Bass figurations, independent of the melodic line, also propel the music forward. Of the six sonatas, no. 4 in E minor stands out musically; it’s the only one in a minor key and happens to be the least demanding technically. Among its charms is an unembellished common time interlude in E major, marked Pastorale e Affettuoso, that interrupts the final minuet.

Edition HH has provided an informative introduction by Helen Crown and a discreet continuo realisation by David Ponsford, with bass figures in the cello part too. It would be helpful though for keyboard players making their own realisations to see the upper part. An edition by Crown from the same publisher of Granom’s Six Sonatas op. 8 is now available. For a detailed appraisal of this intriguing composer’s life and output, I recommend Crown’s doctoral thesis ‘Lewis Granom: His Significance for the Flute in the Eighteenth Century’, available online at https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/50783/1/THESIS.pdf .

We are grateful to the The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.

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