François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Concert No. 1 from the Concerts Royaux [10:51]
Concerts Nos. 5-7 from Les Goûts Réunis, ou Nouveaux Concerts [9:35; 13:05; 14:23]
Concert No. 8, dans le gout théatral from Les Goûts Réunis ou Nouveaux Concerts [20:54]
Concert No. 9, intitule Ritratto dell’amore from Les Goûts Réunis, ou Nouveaux Concerts [17:54]
Concerts Nos. 10-13 from Les Goûts Réunis, ou Nouveaux Concerts [8:50; 17:02; 6:32; 8:17]
Concert No. 14 et dernier de cet livre from Les Goûts Réunis, ou Nouveaux Concerts [8:37]
Thomas Indermühle (oboe, oboe d’amore, baritone oboe); Henk de Wit (bassoon); Ursula Dütschler (harpsichord)
rec. 11-14 December 1995, The English Reformed Church, Amsterdam and 22-25 March 1991, Kirche Blumenstein, Switzerland
CAMERATA CM-15045-6 [68:48 + 67:12]
The booklet notes for this release open with a funny sentence, “King Louis XIV could afford the best of everything, which is probably why the finest wines of his time are no longer to be had.” I’d always wondered why you can never find the early 18th vintages on the supermarket shelves and here’s the answer, King Louis XIV drank the lot.
François Couperin was in the employ of King Louis XIV, who had his musicians perform weekly chamber music concerts in the last years of his life. After the king died in 1715 Couperin had an opportunity to bring these works together, and in 1722 he published the “Concerts royaux” and in 1724, “Les Goûts réunis ou Nouveaux Concerts”. We’ve come across oboist Thomas Indermühle before on these pages, with concertos by Telemann and Albinoni, and his teamwork with bassoonist Henk de Wit and harpsichord player Ursula Dütschler is excellent. These performances are all very stylish and elegant, and one can imagine the king being royally entertained.
It is good to have as many of these works collected together in one place, though some change in instrumental timbre beyond oboe in such an extensive programme might have been welcome. Thomas Indermühle has been cloned to give us an oboe duet in the Menuet en Trio of Concert No. 1 which is a convincing effect, but otherwise it is an awful lot of reeds and plucking tangents. The harpsichord in this Camerata production might also have recorded with a little more body in the sound. The balance is decent enough, but there are more upper harmonics in evidence than lower resonance, which would have helped in filling out the harmonies. The recordings in two different locations are highly compatible and there are no serious jolts from one to the other, though of the two the Amsterdam church in the Begijnhof is a touch less resonant.
I’ve had a listen to the Barthold Kuijken’s single disc selection on the Accent label, ACC23153, the flute and cello mix having a gentler and more rounded feel to the sound. Avie Records has a nicely sonorous strings and harpsichord only programme from Les Goûts Réunis on AV2132, showing another of the many ways in which these pieces can be presented. I’m not sure how the king would have responded to this rather melancholy picture, and Thomas Indermühle’s oboe is certainly a more overtly lyrical option. The long and short of it is that this two disc set is more one to dip into as the mood takes rather than to be heard in one sitting, which in any case is certainly not how they originally would have appeared.
The sprightly dance movements in this recording are done with tremendous élan, the more plangent Gravement sections not overly weighed down with artificially sought emotional cares, the Tendrement and other moods nicely poised and performed with courtly taste. If you are a fan of this period and national style, then this recording will appeal greatly. Be aware however, that other instrumentations are available.
A stylish and elegant surfeit.