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ClassicsOnline Home » LOEILLET DE GANT, J.-B.: Recorder Sonatas, Opp. 1-4 (Rothert, Young, Haugsand)
Little is known about Jean Baptiste Loeillet de Gant’s life, but his solo recorder sonatas have retained their popularity from their origins in the Baroque period to the present day. Strongly influenced by the violin sonatas of Corelli, these pieces combine Italian and French characteristics to create expressive and virtuoso chamber music of the greatest elegance and finesse. Daniel Rothert brings his “warm, refined tone” (American Record Guide) to a selection of the best sonatas from Opp. I–IV.
Jean Baptiste Loeillet de Gant (1688–c.1720)
Eight Recorder Sonatas from Opp. I–IV
Very little is known of the life of Jean Baptiste Loeillet de Gant. He was baptized on 6 July 1688 in Ghent and later was in the service of Archbishop Paul-François de Neufville de Villeroy in Lyon, where he died some time before 1729, and most probably about 1720. In order to avoid confusion with his cousin, also called John Baptiste Loeillet, he styled himself J.B. Loeillet de Gant (of Ghent). By contrast his cousin (b. 1680 in Ghent, d. 1730 in London) is mostly to be found under the name John Loeillet of London. A younger brother of John Loeillet of London was Jacques (Jacob Jean Baptiste) Loeillet (b. 1685 in Ghent, d. 1748 in Ghent). Both cousins of Jean Baptiste Loeillet de Gant were musicians too, who also wrote pieces for the recorder.
Apart from several other works, 48 solo sonatas for recorder and basso continuo by J. B. Loeillet de Gant have survived, twelve of them in Opp. I–IV, and eight of these sonatas have been selected for inclusion on this recording. A number of Loeillet de Gant’s solo sonatas have had a firm place in the recorder repertoire for decades and must have enjoyed great popularity in the Baroque era since, following their first publication by the firm Roger in Amsterdam (Op. I, 1710; Op. II, 1714; Op. III, 1715, Op. IV, 1716), all the sonatas had already been reprinted in the years 1712–1722 by the London publishers Walsh & Hare. Furthermore, six of the sonatas appeared from the same publisher as duets in an anonymous arrangement for two recorders.
Stylistically and formally Loeillet de Gant’s sonatas are strongly influenced by the Op. V violin sonatas (Rome 1700) of Arcangelo Corelli and by the sonata da chiesa pattern and the sonata da camera. But they also exhibit independent characteristics through their French decorations and influences as well as rigorous counterpoint. By way of example the bass part in the sonatas, with long first movements, is thematically more important than in Corelli, and often begins with several bars of solo introduction. The Sonata Op. II/3 in D minor is perhaps the most French-influenced sonata on the recording: after a vigorously contrapuntal Vivace (Prelude) there follows an Allemanda which is the equivalent of an Allemanda Grave, a Sarabanda, a Presto and a Giga. The Sonata Op. I/3 in G major counts among the most famous of Loeillet’s works and impresses with its expressive melodies and harmonies in the slow movements and striking wit and spirit in its fast movements, as well as in its formal layout. The nominal sonata da chiesa form is here modified by the last movement Gavotta. A similar sequence of movements as in Corelli’s Violin Sonata Op. V/5 in G minor can also be found in Loeillet’s Sonata Op. III/5 in C minor. Arioso slow movements are contrasted with a fugal second movement and two fast dance movements.
With its six movements the Sonata Op. I/6 in C major is remarkable not only for its length. The Poco allegro begins not only with a four-bar bass introduction but in the course of the movement has solos in dialogue with the recorder part. In the second part of this movement the recorder part goes down to e’, which seems to rule out the use of a treble recorder in f’, the common flute, and indicate an instrument in d’. In view of the many fast and the two very short slow movements the choice was made of the sixth flute in d”, an instrument particularly widely used in England. This instrument is particularly suited to expressing the virtuoso nature of the sonata and provides variety of tone-colour through its use of the root position. The Sonata in F minor can serve as an example of the effect which this key has, as described in Johann Mattheson’s book Das neu-eröffnete Orchester: “F minor (…) seems to suggest a mortal and heartfelt pain, delicate and serene, yet deep and heavy, with something of despair about it, and is generally moving. It expresses beautifully a dark helpless melancholy and from time to time induces in the listener a feeling of dread or a shudder.” Formally the sonata conforms to the sonata da chiesa pattern, even though the third movement (Sarabanda, Adagio) is treated strictly as a suite-like movement and is like a sonata da camera.
From a formal point of view the Sonata in E flat major Op. III/7 is indebted to the Italian tradition. After a cantabile and ornamented first movement there follows a Gavotta-like Vivace with an at times lumbering bass part in quavers, developing into a sombre C minor Adagio; it ends in turn in a Vivace with virtuoso quavers in the bass part.
One of the best-known of Loeillet de Gant’s works is the Sonata in A minor Op. I/1. The expressive theme of the first movement evolves from a rising triadic motif, once again preceded by a bass introduction. After a rhythmically energetic Allegro there follows an intimate Adagio which leads into the closing movement (Giga, Allegro). With its Lombardic rhythm this last movement seems to have been inspired by an Irish or Scottish folk dance or a Jig. The Sonata Op. III/12 in E minor is identical in structure to Corelli’s Violin Sonata op. V/11 in E major (sonata da camera). After the melancholy first movement comes a dance-like Vivace with flourishes of grace notes as ornaments or “…the little note that does not enter into the bar” (Marin Marais, 1686). After the solemn Largocome a fast movement in 3/8 time and a fast Gavotta, both corresponding to Corelli’s Op. V/11.
English translation by David Stevens
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LOEILLET DE GANT, J.-B.: Recorder Sonatas, Opp. 1-...