Viola da Gamba – Bass solo: Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, op.40 – Rondeau

April 18, 2009

Joseph Bodin de Boismortier, Rondeau in Amin, from op.40 – www.ernststolz.com

I found this seductive solo – internet recording and sheet music – on the internet and it’s a real boon for those starting out on French bass viol or a seven-string French bass viol. I wasn’t aware of this piece previously, being familiar only with his op.10 and op.14. I like this rondeau because it has that very late, Rococo feel which reminds me of Roland Marais, son of Marin – everything very pared down. I find most in opp.10 and 14 not so good under the hand and wonder if they are not better suited to ‘cello.

It’s a delightfully straightforward rondeau with a repeated theme and a longer B section made up of variations concluding with two in very fast demisemiquaver runs, some lots slurred.  It’s marked Gracieusement and bow markings are included to set one straight about how to run up the initial arpeggios in 6/8 time. I reckon it’s important to include the ornaments from the beginning – they are so integral, it’s important not to add them ‘later on’. What is important, and the recording comes to mind here, is the right balance between the sustained ring of the gamba and the need for very clear starts and finishes to each note/phrase. There’s no room for wishy-washiness but we don’t want a staccato, too-detached sound either.

This is a beautiful one-page wonder – you can stick to the theme and the easiest variations, adding the last two when confidence and ability increases. It’s a great stepping stone to others by JBdeB. The harmonies look simple enough for an enterpising player to draw up a suitable bass line to go with this solo – work something out using the internet recording as a guide. And since it goes down to only the bottom E, it can be played on an ordinary bass viol.

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