Purcell Quartet’s Vol.1 of ‘Les Nations’ (CHAN 0684) dated
from 2001 and observed the context of the music at the court
of the Sun King with due grace, ceremony and subtlety, albeit
a bit coldly.
2004 recording of the remainder of ‘Les Nations’ interspersed
with other works, inexplicably placed, retains the accuracy
of execution of Vol.1. Sadly virtuosic enthusiasm is no substitute
delicacy is only observed in tracks 17 to 21 when a bass
viol then a harpsichord are respectively introduced by other
musicians. This seems to limit the giddiness of the Purcell
strings to an extent, especially an insistent cello.
aggressive approach to ‘Les Nations’ by the Quartet and engineers
alike is less pronounced in the other works and it must be
admitted that the Gravement movements (tracks 22 and
24) get a bit closer to Couperin than the rest of this CD.
to Jordi Savall, Hesperion on Astrée playing ‘Les Nations’ all
of a piece or Teldec’s Bruggen, Leonhardt and
Quadro Amsterdam the Purcell Quartet’s playing seems to be
rushed, a bit brash and even slack at times. Take for example
the opening of track 32 and the whole of 33. It is almost
as if the musicians are just doing a job instead of loving
the recording had the same venue in Suffolk as Vol.1, the
producer and engineers are different and this is really what
fails this CD.
music is written for modest halls but I doubt that any room
at Louis XIV’s Versailles had an absolutely dead acoustic,
even the privy. The Chandos engineers on this disc do no
justice to the wonderful instruments played by the Purcell
Quartet and duly listed in the excellent CD booklet. Would
that the Chandos website could be as accessible.
overall sound is harsh, tinny and the worst of digital even
via different DACs whereas Savall’s committed recording has
ambience as well as a French sound or, rather, a European
sound of the period. Couperin took many clues from Corelli
and Vivaldi at a time when the Italian baroque was fashionable
in the very centre of fashion, Versailles.
several tracks of this disc, especially in ‘Les Nations’ (in
its separate chunks) there is a low frequency noise artefact,
like a wind noise. There is no excuse for this being present
at mixing or at re-mixing but once heard it becomes most
irritating. We have all heard traffic rumble on some recordings
now and then but this noise is internal to the session and
it comes to value, the Purcell Quartet ‘Les Nations’ Vol.
2 is a single CD at a fair price but separated from Vol.1
by three years. The logic of this is odd, especially as the
engineers are different.
Das Alte Werk double with Bruggen, Bylsma, Leonhardt as the
Quadro Amsterdam (1999) might be a little bit dry for some
but it is consistent and expert at about £18.
Jordi Savall’s Hesperion XX on Astrée (Harmonia Mundi) is
a double disc dedicated to ‘Les Nations’ and has greater
depth than the Teldec at £17. It is as if the musicians
from a warmer clime have an innate understanding of Couperin’s
is closest to the court of the Sun King and I regret that,
against this backdrop, the Purcell Quartet version on Chandos
simply cannot compete.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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