While one tends to associate the trio sonata for two violins and continuo with Italy, the trio sonata for flute, violin and continuo was largely the province of German composers (including Telemann, J.S. Bach, Handel, and then later Quantz, C.Ph.E. Bach, C.H. Graun and other musicians attached to the court of Frederick the Great). It is therefore surprising to discover that one of the very first published collections of trio sonatas for this particular scoring was composed by the Frenchman Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (1689-1755), whose sonatas were moreover intentionally written in the ‘Italian style’.
Boismortier’s Op. 41 dates from 1732. As with all his ‘Italian’ trio sonatas, Boismortier modelled his Op. 41 on the works of Corelli, but the influence of other Italian composers, notably Vivaldi, is also evident. In spite of their Italianate writing, however, the individual sonatas do evince a French character, thanks to Boismortier’s rich harmonic language, to his many ‘typically French’ melodic lines, and to the occasional presence of French agréments.
Op. 41, like much of Boismortier’s music, was probably conceived for amateur musicians; the six sonatas are in comfortable keys for the one-keyed flute (G major, D major, E minor, and G minor), even if the two upper parts are not devoid of technically challenging passages. Most of the sonatas are ‘sonate da chiesa’ in five movements, even if they always contain at least one dance form.
These are works of great charm and distinctiveness, and it is difficult to understand why they have been virtually forgotten for the past 280 years. They are simply unlike other baroque trio sonatas for the same instrumental combination, all the more so since they eschew German influence; this fact alone renders them worthy of rediscovery.