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23.3.19

Briefly Noted: Rousset Surveys the Nations

available at Amazon
F. Couperin, Les Nations, Les Talens Lyriques, C. Rousset

(released on January 25, 2019)
Aparte AP197D | 109'01"
While Washington's concert presenters gave us a lethal overdose of Leonard Bernstein's music last year, the anniversary of a far more prolific and talented composer went largely unnoticed. Only Christophe Rousset, on an extraordinary visit to the Library of Congress last fall, offered a tribute to François Couperin, a composer distinguished from other members of his family by the epithet "The Great." With his ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, Rousset has also released a complete recording of the composer's fourth collection of chamber music for instruments, published as Les Nations in 1726, a few years before the composer's death.

Each suite in Les Nations is named for one of "the four political powers – French, Spanish, Imperial (the Holy Roman Empire), and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont – that for many years influenced Couperin’s world," as esteemed French musicologist Catherine Cessac puts it in her savant booklet essay. The music, however, is largely reworked from earlier sources, as Couperin himself explained in the preface to the collection, making it more a survey of his own trajectory as a composer. The four suites all open with a long "sonade," a trio sonata in which Couperin gives homage to the Italian music of Corelli and Lully, "both of whose compositions I shall love as long as I live." An array of dazzling, shorter dance pieces in the French style fills out the rest of each suite, merging the true "nations" of the collection, France and Italy.

Rousset achieves a diverting range of sounds from his small ensemble -- two violins, two traverso flutes, two oboes, bassoon, viola da gamba, theorbo, and himself at the harpsichord -- covering the four parts (two treble lines, sustained bass instrument, and continuo). Varied instrumentation movement to movement yields any number of registrations from intimate to full. While all the playing is at the highest level, the pastel breathiness of the flutes is especially striking, as in the slender "Gavote" of the second suite, L'Espagnole, a compact, quiet minute of concentrated charm. Even the locale of the recording is apt: the Galerie dorée of the Hôtel de la Vrillière, once the residence of the Comte de Toulouse, second legitimated son of Louis XIV and his mistress, Madame de Montespan, and harpsichord student of François Couperin. Now it is the home of the Banque de France, which has opened the restored space to musicians and occasional public visits.

1 comment:

dar said...

Swell review of a sublime album,Prof D...ManyThanks