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Jean-Féry REBEL (1666-1747)
Tombeau - The Complete Trio Sonatas

La Flore, in A major
La Junon, in E minor
La Venus, in F major
Le Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully, in C minor
La Pallas, in D major
L’Immortelle, in G minor
L’Apollon, in B flat major
Ensemble Rebel
Recorded April 1996 (tracks 1-3 & 7) and May 1994 (tracks 4-6) at Oranieburg of Schloss Nordkirchen, Germany DDD
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI DHM 74321 935552 [61:39]

 

Frenchman Jean-Féry Rebel was introduced to the Parisian court as a child prodigy. He lived to enjoy a long and productive career as a violinist and composer. Commencing as a member of the court of Louis XIV, by 1699 Rebel has become first violinist of the Académie Royale de Musique. He journeyed to Spain the following year, and was given a place in the 24 Violons du Roy on his return in 1705. Rebel served as Court Composer, a Maître de Musique at the Académie and became director of the Concert Spirituel.

A major protagonist in the passionate debate over the Italian versus the French schools, Rebel championed the more contemporary style of composition. Later in his career in 1737 Rebel gained fame for the wildly chaotic and aberrant choreographed orchestral suite, ‘Les Elemens’ in which he experimented briefly but dramatically with atonalism. The thunderous dissonance which opens ‘Les Elemens’ is probably the most shocking and original single bar of music composed up to that time. It is especially extraordinary to reflect that the score was written by a 71-year-old whose music had been previously praised for its 'wisdom, taste and tenderness' and its avoidance of the 'frightening and monstrous'!

An inspection will reveal that there are still only a small number of recordings by Rebel in the catalogue. Undoubtedly the highpoint so far has been the eminently successful release of eight of Rebel’s Violin Sonatas performed by violist Andrew Manze; harpsichordist Richard Egarr and viola de gamba player Jaap ter Linden. The recording on the Harmonia Mundi label HMU907221 gained substantial acclaim and won the prestigious Gramophone Magazine’s Critic’s Choice award in 1999.

Parisian-born Rebel was one of the first composers to find a place for the Trio Sonata in French music. The Sonata a tre first appeared in Italy at the start of the seventeenth century and has evolved to become the central instrumental form in chamber music with the composer Corelli at the core of developments. The Italian form of Trio Sonata later appeared in France, although with some reluctance the style was gradually adopted. Two types of Trio Sonata had emerged.

Rebel, who liked to give his compositions descriptive names, paid attention to both the Sonata da camera and the Sonata da Chiesa types of Trio Sonata. Rather than merely imitate, Rebel used them as templates for his thoroughly individual music. For example the La Junon, La Venus, La Pallas and L’Immortelle with their fast, slow, fast, slow movements appear to be mainly influenced by the model of the Sonata da Chiesa. Conversely La Flore and L’Apollan inclines to follow the pattern of the Sonata da camera with its series of contrasting dance movements. However Le Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully appears to be a fusion between the best of both styles. Furthermore the work also has additional compositional weight and a longer duration compared to the other works on this release.

Recorded in 1994 and 1996 the Ensemble Rebel use authentic instruments or period copies. Led by baroque violinist Jorg-Michael Schwarz, a second violin, viola de gamba and harpsichord or organ they perform works expressly composed for the viola de gamba as a continuo instrument.

The blend of the individual voices from the Ensemble Rebel is impeccable. The players display a sure quality of tone and subtle colouring which is perfectly lovely. In the feature-work their account of the Le Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully is given an exceptionally sensitive and endearing performance where nothing is rushed or effusive.

This recording of late baroque Trio Sonatas from Rebel is surely one of the finest of the series of reissues from the DHM label.

Michael Cookson



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