This is such a beautifully designed debut disc for new Catalan
label Musièpoca that it would be worth the asking price even
if it heralded the latest thing in pop pap. The fact that the
music is in fact exhilarating, superbly recorded and performed
with consummate musicianship by Vespres d'Arnadí, whose members
are drawn from the likes of Les Talens Lyriques, Le Concert
des Nations and the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, makes this without
doubt one of the finest CD releases of the year.
From the purple and white colour scheme to the choice of font,
from the reproductions of period paintings and engravings to
the biographical and technical detail provided, the booklet
is a pleasure not just to read but simply to look at. The CD
case itself is made of card, all of which adds to the marvellous
feeling of antiquity engendered by the music and performance.
Rosa Gomis is credited with graphic design and both she and
executive producers and label management Pere Saragossa - additionally
oboist and note-writer - and Dani Espasa, the musical director,
deserve a mention in this review for their excellent production.
It is almost as if this is what an early 18th century CD would
have looked like!
By a quirk of fate - bad weather, in fact - thirteen-year-old
Queen-to-be Maria Luisa of Savoy fetched up in Marseille in
1701, where French composer Charles Desmazures was cathedral
organist. Desmazures dedicated to her a set of seven suites;
these Pièces de Simphonie appear to be his only surviving
works. His music is in the style of the suites of Lully or more
closely, the ballet music of near-contemporary Jean-Féry Rebel,
and just as magnificent in its elegance, lyricism, nostalgia
The two Suites performed here have eleven and sixteen movements
respectively, of between one and four minutes in length. They
both open with an Ouverture and close with a Chaconne, but apart
from this Desmazures apparently made few stipulations regarding
playing order of the remaining dance movements and character
pieces, other than a basic alternation of fast and slow items.
Sensitive also to the make-up of ensembles at the time, Desmazures
built in a flexibility of instrumentation.
The Vespres d'Arnadí play on period instruments, all duly listed
in the booklet (albeit in Catalan). Their choices - mainly violins,
flutes and oboes, tastefully augmented with an array of period
continuo, percussion and the like - are not just authentic but
inspired, allowing them to imbue Desmazures' music with vivid
colour and striking texture, enhanced further by their very
thoughtful tempi. The Vespres d'Arnadí are named partly after
the time of day music such as this would be heard by bourgeois
and noble families over a meal, and partly after a traditional
sweet dessert of southern Spain. As a taster for this disc,
the antepenultimate movement of Suite III, 'Les Rêveries', is
Only three minor quibbles, though it seems almost churlish to
mention them: firstly, the CD booklet goes into a slot that
is not designed to last - it will inevitably tear at one side.
Second, the translation into English of the Catalan notes is
less than idiomatic, heavily influenced by the Iberian formulations
of the original. For example: "the epoch immediately posterior
to Lully", "While, in the 17th century, unlike what
occurred in other European courts, ..." and "the Pièces
de Simphonie recuperated in the present recording". The
translation is signed by someone whose name suggests a native English
speaker, yet it is hard to credit that these awkward phrasings come from such a source: why would we repeatedly encounter "C mayor",
"B-flat mayor", "G mayor". Finally, there
is one small technical blip halfway through track 17, like a
speck of dust slightly jerking the tracking - with luck only
affecting the review disc.
There is more to come from Musièpoca on the theme of music related
to the War of Spanish Succession - in fact, two further Catalan-themed
CDs have already been released, and a fourth is due out shortly.
What a treat they promise to be!
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk