Joseph Bodin de Boismortier (pronounced Bwah-mor-tee-aye) (b. Dec. 23, 1689; d. October 28, 1755) is a most interesting French composer. It was not until he moved to Paris in 1724, at age 35, that any of his music was recognized or published. Between 1724 and 1747, he published 102 compositions with opus numbers in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental combinations and genres.
Boismortier was significant as an innovator. He was the first French composer to adopt the Italian word "concerto" for his titles. This publication is from opus 15 entitled Six Concertos for Five Flutes without Bass which was composed in 1727. The situation of 5 like instruments performing together without bass or continuo was a novel experiment by Boismortier; perhaps to provide more flexibility in performance areas, and also to be rid of "the unnecessary noise" of that foreign instrument which did not fit into the timbre of the solo voices. The addition of a bass part would nullify the existence of the 5th flute part which would then become extraneous.
His great love for the flute is evidenced by his output of compositions for this medium; 2 flutes, 3 flutes alone, 3 flutes with bass, and this edition of 5 flutes without bass. This large proportion of flute output brought also a "flexibility" as the composer noted for "flute and/or other suitable like instruments." In addition to popularizing the genres of the concerto and sonata, Boismortier also wrote an instruction book for the flute, "Principes de flute, opus 90", which is sadly lost. Another significant portion of Boismortier's music is devoted to the bagpipe and the hurdy-gurdy, rustic instruments enjoyed by the French nobility of the 18th century. His vocal music proved to be also particularly popular, with his operas claiming great applause.
A great deal of his music was directed toward small amateur ensembles with limited musical resources rather than at professional ensembles at French courts; therefore, many of his works are designated for flexible performance media. This editor envisions this potential and carries Boismortier’s music to the assembly of other like instrumental combinations. His music is characterized by its tunefulness, simplicity, and elegance. It is further characterized by moderate virtuosity. He was original with his employment of harmony, texture and rhythm.
French scholars have noted that "Although Boismortier's works have long been forgotten, anyone who desires to take the trouble to excavate this abandoned mine of his repertoire will find enough grains of gold dust to make an ingot." It is exactly this gold nugget that this Robert P. Block sensed in editing "Six Sonatas, op. 24" for Soprano Duets. It was originally meant for two flutes, oboes or violins.