Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
L’Apothéose de Corelli (1724)
L’Apothéose de Lully (1725)
La Sultane (1695)
La Steinerque (1692)
London Baroque Ensemble/Charles Medlam
Rec. January 2001, St Martin’s, East Woodhay, Hampshire
BIS CD 1275 [65.40]

François Couperin often described as 'Couperin le grand' was the nephew of Louis, and he ranks as the most important member of this famous musical dynasty. It was towards the close of the 17th century that his compositions began to make his reputation posthumously. However during his lifetime his talents were recognised when in 1702 he received the fomal honour of the title 'Chevalier de l'Ordre de Latran'.

The programme on this imaginatively compiled collection is dominated by two of Couperin’s most inspired works, both entitled L’Apothéose’, and both therefore are works indebted to the concept of homage. The point behind these was that the composer believed that the art of music would benefit from the blending of the French and Italian styles. In which regard it should not be forgotten that the great Monsieur de Lully, the master of the previous generation, hailed from Italy.

The more ambitious of the two pieces is that linking to Lully, but the Corelli piece is not without its merits. The concept has Corelli elevated to the deity on Parnassus, and he eventually gives thanks when he is positioned next to Apollo. Across its fifteen-minute span the music is admirably balanced both in pacing and in formal characteristics. Charles Medlam leads an excellent performance, and here, as elsewhere, the recorded sound is exemplary, at once clear and atmospheric.

However, it is with L’Apothéose de Lully that Couperin reaches to higher levels of inspiration. The pacing of the whole piece across more than half an hour is thoughtfully achieved, and Charles Medlam himself provides the idiomatic introductions in French. They communicate both clearly and directly. The ebb and flow of the music is effortlessly inspired, endlessly imaginative, and Medlam and his players are found at the top of their form. The clarity of articulation and appropriateness of phrasing are real strengths, the tempi always well chosen. Nor is the wit that lies at the centre of the conception lost on these performers.

The other items are merely fillers and the music operates at a lower level of inspiration. La Steinerque is not without its wit, to be fair, but this celebration of military victory over William III of Orange is full of stock gestures. La Sultane operates at the other extreme, since it is an early example of a ‘tombeau’, a musical funeral tribute, on this occasion inspired by the Duchess of Burgundy. The string textures are pleasingly rich and sonorous, which is a tribute to Couperin, to the players and, once more, to the BIS engineers.

Terry Barfoot

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