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American Record Guide: (07/2017) 
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Reviewer: Charles Brewer


Since these two works represent very different genres, this review will be in two parts.


Part I: François Couperin was well aware of both the roots of the French style in the works of Jean-Baptiste Lully and his own appreciation for the newer styles of Italian music. In his two Apotheoses for Corelli (1724) and Lully (1725) he sought to render musical homage to his two musical models. These two works also
expressed his own aesthetic hope that the two styles could be reconciled, as he invoked in the subtitle to the publication that included the Apotheosis of Corelli, Les Goûts-reunis (the reunited tastes). In the recording of the Apotheosis of Lully, Arcangelo follows the model of London Baroque (Bis 1275, 2003) and uses only two violins and continuo (here viola da gamba, lute, and harpsichord). Most of the earlier recordings of these works are discussed in my review of the recording by the Ricercar Consort (Sept/Oct 2012), though I have since also heard the very stylish and elegant recording by Musica ad Rhenum (Jan/Feb 2006), which very much follows the larger instrumentation and style of the Kuijkens’ recording from 1987, but also omits any added narration. In terms of instrumentation, the recent recording by Gli Incogniti (Jan/Feb 2015) also uses only string instruments (two violins, viola da gamba, and continuo), but since it is both stylish and allows for listening to Couperin’s homage without the narrated titles, it has a critical advantage. Unfortunately, when preparing the narration for this new release, no one noticed that no other recording included someone speaking “Saillie”, which is merely the title of the second movement of the Sonade en Trio” which “follows” the first.


Part II: Though Couperin was not a prolific composer of church music (like, for example, Marc-Antoine Charpentier or Michael-Richard de Lalande), he did write a number of smallerscale compositions, a few of which were meant for his cousin, Marguerite-Louise Couperin (1675-1728), who, though a woman, had royal dispensation to sing sacred works for the court. The best known and most often recorded are the Tenebrae Readings for Holy Wednesday, written in 1714 for the Holy Week liturgy at the Abbaye Royale de Longchamp, a fashionable convent that would hire singers from the Paris Opera but also charge for a seat in the church. Since the readings from the Lamentations of Jeremiah were distributed among the Matins offices for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, but usually in the middle of the night, French tradition moved them to the previous afternoons; hence Couperin’s reference to Wednesday for the Maundy Thursday readings, from Lamentations 1:1-14. Couperin divided his text into the traditional three lessons and composed the first and second lessons for a single soprano and the third for two sopranos. Often, as in this new release, two singers alternate in the first two lessons and combine for the third. A few recordings have been made with countertenors (May/June 1992, July/Aug 1995 see TALLIS, and Mar/Apr 2006).


On this new release, Katherine Watson sings the first and Anna Dennis, with a slightly darker timbre, the second; when combined in the third lesson, they are well matched but are subtly different in timbre, which is very evident where the voices cross over each other. Both have clear and flexible voices, and both manage the intricate trills and turns of French ornamentation with ease. The continuo, played by Jonathan Cohen (organ), Thomas Dunford (lute), and Anne-Marie Lasla (viola da gamba), is supportive and unobtrusive. This is a very stylish performance, using French Latin pronunciation, and every bit as good as the recording led by William Christie (Sept/Oct 1997), also with French Latin but harpsichord for continuo. Some earlier recordings use traditional ecclesiastical Latin, such as the ones by Christophe Rousset (July/Aug 2000), though that means ignoring a few of Couperin’s explicit articulation markings. A favorite of mine was by Laurence Bouley (Musifrance 45012). So, in conclusion, “A chacun son goût.”

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