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Les Grâces Françoises- Music of the French Baroque Nicolas BERNIER(1665-1734) Le Caffé [18:36] François COUPERIN(1668-1733) Neuvième Concert 'Ritratto dell'amore' [13:34] Marin MARAIS(1656-1728)
Pièces de viole, 3eme livre, 1711: Prélude [3:11] Allemande [2:42] Courante [1:47] Sarabande [2:52] Jacques DUPHLY(1715-1789)
Pièces de clavecin, 3eme livre, 1756: Les grâces [9:21] La De Belombre [4:13] Menuets I & II [4:07] Michel Pignolet DE MONTÉCLAIR(1667-1737) Ariane et Bachus [16:14]
Les Grâces (Jennifer Paulino (soprano), Annette Bauer (recorder),
Rebekah Ahrendt (viola da gamba), Jonathan Rhodes Lee (harpsichord))
rec. 3-5 June 2010, Hertz Hall, University of California, Berkeley,
CA, USA. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1396 [76:45]
Since the Middle Ages music has been one of the main occupations
of the aristocracy. In the first decades of the 18th century
this occupation extended to other echelons of society. Wealthy
citizens liked to sing and play or to listen to music at their
homes or in social gatherings. In France two genres were particularly
popular, the sonata and the cantata. Their small scoring was
excellently suited to the intimate surroundings of the salons
of Paris and other towns. As a result large numbers of pieces
in both genres were produced by the best composers of the time.
The scoring reflects the instruments which were particularly
loved, the transverse flute and the violin. The recorder still
played a role, but became increasingly marginal.
The present disc includes several specimens from these two genres.
The performers haven't made things easy for themselves by choosing
from the best-known and most frequently recorded. The gamba
music of Marin Marais is present on many discs. One wonders
why someone with an interest in French music of this period
would want to hear just four pieces from a book which is easily
available complete. The performance by Rebekah Ahrendt is alright,
but not very engaging.
The same has to be said of the Neuvième Concert
from François Couperin's Les Goûts-réünis
which is played here on the recorder. Strictly speaking there
is no objection to the use of the recorder. Couperin didn't
specify the instruments to be used in his instrumental concerts.
Then again in his own writings he does not mention the recorder
in this context. These pieces were rather played on violin,
viola da gamba, oboe and bassoon. The transverse flute was also
often used in compositions like this. The recorder is not the
most obvious choice, as it was increasingly marginalised, but
also because of its limited dynamic possibilities. The latter
is one of the reasons that this performance is rather subdued
and lacks expression. Annette Bauer's playing falls short in
dynamic shades, and her interpretation is too restrained. This
is no Italian music - although clearly influenced by it - but
that doesn't mean a performance should be so bland as is the
case here. Only recently I reviewed a disc with the German recorder
player Dorothee Oberlinger (http://www.musica-dei-donum.org/cd_reviews/dhm_88697735092.html)
who gives a quite different account of French music from the
early 18th century.
This is indicative of the present disc as a whole. The three
harpsichord pieces by Jacques Duphly are quite extroverted,
but that doesn't really come off in Jonathan Rhodes Lee's performance.
The tempi are slowish, and the articulation should have been
sharper, with stronger contrasts between musical figures.
The two cantatas are the most interesting part of the programme.
It begins with Le Caffé by Nicolas Bernier, which
reflects the fashion of drinking coffee which had emerged in
the last quarter of the 17th century. One wonders why Rebekah
Ahrendt didn't choose Marais' saillie du Caffé,
also from the third book. Jennifer Paulino has what it takes
to sing such cantatas, but I would have liked her to use a little
less vibrato, although it is not too obtrusive. Her quite extroverted
approach conflicts with the too restrained playing of Annette
Bauer. In this cantata the use of a recorder is more plausible
than in Ariane et Bachus by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair.
It is out of step with the first part which is quite dramatic,
expressing the anger of Ariane being left by Theseus. After
that she is consoled by Bacchus who falls in love with her.
The most commonly used instrument for illustrating love is the
transverse flute. That would also have been a better choice
because of the instrument's wider dynamic range and more differentiated
colour palette. In this cantata I find Ms Paulino's vibrato
more of a problem, and the ornamentation in the dacapo of the
aria 'Regnez adorable mortelle' seems at odds with the aria's
character indication tendre.
My enthusiasm for this disc is limited. The choice of repertoire
is disappointing as far as the instrumental music is concerned.
The cantatas are the main attraction, even though the performances
are not top-notch.
Johan van Veen
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