Le Concert Brisé: Schmelzer Sonatas

brise SchmelzerWilliam Dongois and Le Concert Brisé. Johann Heinrich Schmelzer: Sonatas. Accent (ACC 24324), 2016.

Joy. Joy without limit. This sums up William Dongois’s recording of music by Johann Schmelzer. It contains all of the characteristics which we have come to expect from Dongois, both in terms of his stunning playing, and in terms of the musicians he surrounds himself with: Le Conçert Brisé.  Dongois continues to impress with his virtuosity on cornett, mute cornett, and cornettino. However, in the final minute or so of Schmelzer’s Sonata secondo his playing is beyond virtuosic. It is positively on fire, yet entirely controlled and refined. That said, the joy in this recording is not entirely joy for the display of technical virtuosity. All of the phrasing is refined. Ornaments are tossed off easily and serve to enhance and not dominate phrasing. Dongois absolutely sings in his playing and it is joyous singing.

Stefan Legée’s work on sackbut is refined and nimble. He blends perfectly with the other instruments. When he is in his high register it can be difficult to differentiate his sound from the cornetto and trumpet.

Jean-François Madeuf plays natural trumpet on two tracks. He is clearly the pre-eminent player of the natural trumpet and his work on this recording is evidence of this. First of all, the listener needs to take note that these two pieces by Schmelzer are full of passages containing numerous notes which would send most early music trumpeters reaching for their “vented” trumpets. Madeuf  handles these passages with great accuracy, refinement, and grace. I draw the listener’s attention particularly to two passages in the Sonata a tre—one an extended arppeggiated  section and the other an extended series descending and ascending  sixteenth notes incorporating the seventh through the sixteenth partials, all tossed off with excellent articulation and grace. For this recording he is using a mouthpiece which is a copy of one described by Mersenne. He graciously furnished this reviewer with the particular dimensions. What stands out are the diameter of the cup: 22.68 mm and the throat: 6.80 mm. By contrast, the diameter of a Bach 1 cup is 17 mm. The listener will be impressed with how well he blends in timbre and volume with violin and cornetto.

This is a recording which deserves attention. This is chamber music which is worthy in its own right.  The performances are superb in every way. Le Conçert Brisé led by William Dongois plays with elegance and charm. Each player has formidable technical prowess which they use with great refinement. It is with great joy that I recommend this recording.

-- James Miller