Astoundingly few compositions by female composers of the late-Baroque and early Classical era are known today. Even with the continuous unearthing of undiscovered works and the diligent efforts of period musicians and historians alike, the substantial efforts of women composers are still entirely underappreciated. This album by the Boston-based Ensemble 44 features sonatas by three all-but-forgotten women composers of that period. Perhaps the most prolific of the three was Isabella Leonarda, a nun in Milan. The other two composers had lofty backing from brother Frederick the Great (Anna Amelia von Preussen) and admirer Louis XIV (Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre), yet their names were quickly forgotten after their deaths. The six sonatas are scored for various combinations of violin, recorder, bass gamba, and harpsichord. Despite the welcome introduction of some quality literature, Ensemble 44 does little to excite listeners about the program. The playing is adequate at its best. Intonation in the violin is rather shaky, and the recorder sounds strained and unsure. Even beyond mere technical shortcomings, there seems to be little joy or enthusiasm in the playing. Tempos from one movement to the next are nearly identical; prestos are about the same as gavottes, which are about the same as prestissimos, which are about the same as allegros. By the end of 34 tracks, listeners are likely to be numb to the novelty of the music being played and thirsting for some contrast, technical precision, and excitement.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Sonata 1 in A minor|
|Sonata 2 in A minor|
|Sonata in B-flat major|