Six sonatas for violin and continuo (c. 1732), vol. 1 (nos. 1-3)
ed. Michael Talbot
Edition HH, HH476.FSP, Launton, 2019 (pbk, £26)
ISMN 979 0 708146 87 2
Edition HH presents a previously undiscovered gem in these violin sonatas by the French violinist and composer Antoine Favre (c.1670-c.1739). Coming from a musical family, Favre later moved among some of the most prominent musical figures of his time and achieved a respectable level of success in both Lyon and Paris, but he had the misfortune of being born at the same time and to have moved in the same circles as such distinguished composers as Couperin, Rameau and Leclair, who have overshadowed his work.
Favre’s second book of violin sonatas dates from about 1732, the first sadly being lost. They are based on Corelli’s op. 5 sonatas from 1700 and Favre similarly maintains consistency of key throughout each sonata, though he appears to have a greater fondness for minor keys. As the editor Michael Talbot points out in his introduction, there is a ‘richness, even pungency’ in Favre’s harmonic language, as well as a desire to develop rather than simply repeat musical ideas. Inventiveness, variety and contrast abound.
Talbot suggests a range of instrumental options for the bass-line melody, although the seven-string bass viol may have been Favre’s own intention. A feasible alternative would be a cello, though this would ideally be used in combination with a keyboard instrument. Should the keyboard form the sole accompaniment, however, the editor provides appropriate advice for this eventuality. Talbot’s own continuo realisation is highly effective and his editorial method and textual notes are exemplary.
The three sonatas contained in the volume reviewed here are in E minor, F major and B minor respectively. The dynamic, contrapuntal final Vivement of Sonata no. 1 and the richly chromatic opening Lentement to Sonata no. 3 are especially fine, while the frequent juxtaposition of French and Italian conventions means that all of the music is fresh and inventive throughout. Edition HH’s characteristic hallmarks of usability and scholarly integrity are evident; the publishers continue to set a high technical and visual standard, and their admirable endeavours in seeking out neglected repertoire deserve every success.
We are grateful to the The Consort for permission to reproduce this review.