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Couperin: Concerts Royaux / Beausejour

Couperin / Beausejour
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Analekta   Catalog #: 29993   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  François Couperin
Performer:  Luc Beauséjour
Conductor:  Luc Beauséjour
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clavecin en Concert
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

COUPERIN Concerts Royaux: in G; in D; in A; in E Luc Beauséjour, cond; Clavecin en Concert ANALEKTA 29993 (61: 00)

In 1722 François Couperin published his Concerts Royaux , a supplement of chamber works that were intended to be produced at salon settings with alternating woodwinds and strings. It is known that he employed violinist François Duval, André Danican Philidor on the oboe, and a bassoonist, Pierre Read more Dubois, to perform these works, but in order to reach the largest possible audience, he left the exact instrumentation unclear. While the statement in the somewhat perfunctory booklet notes that “Couperin’s writing seems to imply that certain lines should be played on woodwinds” is rather unconvincing as support for this recording, the generic nature of the publication doesn’t especially rule it out either. The composer certainly wanted them to be done with whatever was probably at hand, and he himself declared no special preferences. So what came out were four rather conventional French chamber suites, though the second, in D Major, does contain movements that are more free-form than conventional dances.

The works themselves are all indicative of the delicacy of the ancient régime , with subtlety and grace, rather than overt musical material. For example, the delightfully languid “Air tender” of the D-Major Suite, with its meandering viol line, evokes a rather nostalgic sentiment, while the following “contrefugué” is hardly to be compared with the intricate counterpoint of, say, the Germans such as Bach or Telemann, being more of a duet between melody and bass. The lines are decorated with a nice set of ornamentation that lends the gentility a certain French quality. In the Musette movement of the A-Major Suite, the peasant bagpipe drone gives the music a rustic overlay that the solo oboe (in this case) pairs well with. The following Chaconne is suitably mincing and in the Fourth Suite, in E Major, Couperin contrasts the more formal squared-off French courante with a running Italian version that uses a compound meter.

This is definitely not the usual progressive work that heralds something new, but rather a glimpse into the tightly controlled social cultural world of the French aristocracy. Here Couperin has created music that was meant for the entertainment of an intellectual group, not a general audience. The choice of instruments by the Clavecin en Concert group seems to emphasize this purpose. The flute playing by Grégoire Jeay and oboe by Matthew Littlejohn are suitably exacting, and one cannot fault the sensitive gamba of Margaret Little, who emerges with some truly lovely lines. Luc Beauséjour is quite restrained in his accompaniment, sometimes almost to the point of vanishing entirely, and the violin of Chantal Rémillard has a nice often rich sound. As an ensemble, this Canadian group works well together, their tempos flowing easily, and they are extremely accurate in terms of pitch. In short, this is a rather good interpretation and one that will be a welcomed addition to anyone interested in the polite and graceful music of the late French Baroque. I prefer it’s more intimate, and in ways decisive, performance to other discs of these works, such as the 2005 Alta Vox recording by Le Concert des Nations. My only quibble is with the booklet notes, which begin with the biographies of the performers and have the track listings on the rear cover, which can make things a mite confusing. Still, recommended if you don’t have it in your collection already.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Concerts royaux by François Couperin
Performer:  Luc Beauséjour (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  Luc Beauséjour
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Clavecin en Concert
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1722; Paris, France 
Date of Recording: 10/2012 
Venue:  St. Augustin-de-Mirabel Church, Mirabel, 
Length: 55 Minutes 12 Secs. 

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