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Philidor: Six Parisian Quartets & L'art de la Modulation



Philidor’s name for his collection of quartets, L’art de la modulation, might cause one to expect a thorough exploration of all the major and minor keys as in Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Philidor’s approach is very different. His use of the term ’modulation’ has less to do with musical theory and more with the exploration of colour in the way an artist might modulate from one tone to another in a painted canvas. Each of the six quartets takes us on a quirky journey filled with unexpected harmonic twists and turns. It can be eloquent and charming, but can also surprise the ear and nudge the very edge of sensibility. With so much playful chromaticism, the quartets must have seemed wildly progressive for adherents of the old régime. Although he remains faithful to the standard Italian sonata movements and French dance forms of the time, there is always a twist. Whether it is a dramatic gesture borrowed from opera, a lilting aria or a complex fugue, he manages to capture the glitter of Rococo stylish­ness in entirely new ways. Mark Kramer

Philidor: Six Parisian Quartets & L'art de la Modulation