This could have been just another viol consort disc, but instead it manages to offer some unique and worthwhile perspectives on works by the Couperins--Louis, François, and Armand-Louis--and throws in some very attractive pieces by Jacques Duphly, Marin Marais, Louis-Antoine Dornel, Pierre Dumage, and Michel Corrette. Don't worry if most of these names aren't familiar: the music, some presented in its original form, the rest in artful arrangements by members of the early music ensemble Charivari Agréable ("pleasant tumult"), is eminently listenable and musically satisfying. The Couperins composed mostly for organ and harpsichord, and several of the works here are arranged or adapted from keyboard pieces, most notablyRead more François' "Les barricades mistérieuses", whose sensuous, flowing, suspension-laden lines prove well-suited to a solo theorbo. The bass viol also figures prominently--and unusually--in Corrette's Le Phénix, a concerto for four bass viols, and in François Couperin's La Sultane (for two bass viols), the composer's "attempt" to write a piece in the style of Corelli. Perhaps the most striking of all the works on this program are two by Duphly, "La Madin" and "La Casaubon". Originally for keyboard, the composer also included violin accompaniments; but in this version, harpsichordist Kah-Ming Ng has created settings for two solo treble viols and keyboard that are so thoroughly engaging that you'll likely want an immediate repeat performance.
The seven performers from the UK-based Charivari Agréable are experienced early music practitioners who have made their mark particularly in performances and recordings of French baroque music. They certainly have a knack for finding appropriate repertoire and, where useful or necessary, adapting it for their own style and instrumentation--a practice fully consistent with that of 17th and 18th century musicians. The sound is bright and resonant, wanting only a bit more warmth. This is an intelligently created and expertly played program that shouldn't be overlooked by fans of Baroque instrumental chamber music.