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Sonnerie & Other Portraits - French Baroque Chamber Music - Gramophone

14 January 2014
Julie Anne Sadie

This is a most delightful recital of early-18th-century French Baroque chamber music. The works have been carefully chosen and comprise solos as well as trios. Although some of the works will be relatively unfamiliar to listeners (particularly the Dornel and Francoeur), there are still more of similar calibre waiting to be recorded. This single CD-length programme - only available as a download - could thus easily be added to, an observation prompted by the high standard of playing heard here.

Fantasticus was formed specifically to explore the excesses, shall we say, inherent in the Baroque style and present in some of the chamber music of the late 17th and 18th centuries, as well as to experiment with the limits of associated performing practices. Each member of the trio is a polished period player. Their performances are confident, stylish, beautifully articulated and convey a sense of genuine rapport. This is only their second release, so we have much to look forward to.

All of the composers represented here were equally well known as fine performers in their day. They held posts at the Paris Opéra and at the courts of Louis XIV and XV. The intimate scale of the music on this disc belongs to the salons where French aristocrats indulged themselves and their friends with private performances of virtuoso works, music that was nearly always new and had a certain edge.

Originally a literary genre, portraiture in music was subsequently explored by composers such as Couperin, Marais and Rameau. This recording includes three portraits of the Forqueray family: the Dornel Sonata undoubtedly celebrates Antoine's penchant for playing Italian violin sonatas on the viol; the Rameau seems more likely to portray Antoine's son and collaborator; and the mesmerising Duphly most certainly personifies the harpsichordist Marie-Rose Dubois, who was married to the son, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine. Definitely a collector's item.

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