Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: The Violin Sonatas of 1707

As I continue exploring the rich legacy of female composers, I see a pattern emerge. No matter how talented a woman is, her reputation — and her music — evaporates after her death. Unlike male composers, there doesn’t seem to be a cadre of admirers and musicians to keep the legacy alive. 

That’s why I’m always glad to see a new recording that adds to our understanding of these remarkable women. And hopefully, adds to the repertoire at the same time. 

Élisabeth Claude Jacquet de La Guerre was a favorite of Louis XIV, and famous in Parisian circles. She was well-respected both as a harpsichordist and a composer. Contemporary musicologist Titon du Tillet ranked her equal to Marin Marais, and second only to Jean-Baptiste Lully.

She published several volumes of music, many with ground-breaking innovations. Her 1707 collection, “Pièces de Clavecin qui peuvent se jouer sur le Violon,” receives its world recording premiere.

The sonatas aren’t for violin with harpsichord accompaniment. Rather, they present the two instruments as equal partners. Sometimes the harpsichord takes the lead. And sometimes the viola da gamba pairs with the violin.  

The three musicians performing work well together. Dana Maiben plays with a strong, clear tone. Her violin has a tightly focused sound that balances nicely with the other instruments. 

Lisa Goode Crawford plays the harpsichord with pleasing precision. As does Sarah Cunningham, viola da gamba. Often the bass notes of the two instruments are perfectly aligned.

De La Guerre was an innovative composer who knew how to write a melody. As this release amply shows. Time to restore her to the pantheon of French composers — where her contemporaries placed her.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre: The Violin Sonatas of 1707
Dana Maiben, violin; Sarah Cunningham, viola da gamba; Lisa Goode Crawford, harpsichord
Centaur CRC 3988

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