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GRAMOPHONE (01/2017)
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Les Accents, founded in 2014, is an ensemble devoted to vocal and instrumental music of the 17th and 18th centuries. The players here comprise two violins, cello, harpsichord and theorbo. You might expect the programme to consist entirely of trio sonatas, but in fact five of the eight pieces are for violin and continuo. The disc opens with the ‘world premiere recording’ of a sonata by Torelli from Pisendel’s manuscript collection in Dresden. Formed of two movements, each in several sections, it is (I would guess) the earliest piece here. The other works, including Vivaldi’s Sonata, RV759, and La follia, all show their descent from Corelli.

The only other composer represented twice is Caldara, with two pieces from his set of trio sonatas published in 1699: a lively Ciaccona and a sonata. The latter begins with two slow movements, full of imitative writing, and concludes with a Sarabanda. It ends, as expected, with a cadence in the home key of C minor; whereas Bonporti’s Invenzione in the same key surprises you with a tierce de Picardie. The slow, improvisatory first movement of the Bonporti is particularly striking.

Violinist Claire Sottovia makes an admirable foil to Thibaud Noally, and the continuo players are splendid. But the disc really belongs to Noally, who exhibits expert double-stopping and elegant phrasing. His virtuoso account of the Presto in Albinoni’s sonata will take your breath away; but for sheer beauty, with a lovely theorbo accompaniment from Romain Falik, try the songful Preludio of Vivaldi’s B flat Sonata.

A first-rate disc, marred only by the translation of the booklet-note. Readers will be puzzled, for instance, by the reference to ‘crotchets’ and ‘double crotchets’ rather than quavers and semiquavers. There are other bêtises, but the music is the thing. Richard Lawrence

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