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Fanfare Magazine: 36:1 (09-10/2012)
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Reviewer: Barry Brenesal

The novelty on this release is Rebel’s Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully, a work I can’t find another current release of. Composed in 1695, eight years after Lully’s death, it attempts a tepid goûts-réunis by combining Corellian textures with French everything-else. That would not be enough to discard the piece, did it offer much that was musically substantial, but it doesn’t. The five movements that are supposed to remind us of Lullyian opera possess nothing tragic or vigorously dancelike. The only movement that succeeds, a second Récit, hearkens back to the expressive tone-painting of programmatic passages in Lully’s operas—and significantly, it has the same sharply dramatic divisions of purpose and content as Rebel’s innovative ballets.

For the rest, Philippe Pierlot’s Ricercar Consort delivers relatively slow, subdued, but stylish performances in the Couperin trio sonatas and suite. These are cool performances, and, it must be admitted, truly somnolent in Le Parnasse ou L’Apothéose de Corelli’s movement where the Italian composer is depicted as falling asleep: roughly 72 bpm, or an adagio, versus the andante of London Baroque (BIS 1275) at 84 bpm that really helps the contrapuntal lines stand out. The movement “Les Muses réveillent Corelli” has a pronounced snap and Italianate phrasing under the London players, all too typically missing in this staid reading.

Better still is Savall/Hespèrion XX from 1985, a characterful performance that’s no longer available on disc but can be found as a digital download online. If the London Baroque very occasionally feels rushed—as during Corelli’s consumption of the water from Hypocrene—Savall and his musicians always find the right tempo, and a flexible but attentive approach to rhythms.

The Ricercar Consort’s extra content has already been described. London Baroque furnishes La Sultane and La Steinquerque. Savall includes no extras, but the price is low, as befits a download. In short, while all three offer good sound and technically expert playing, I’d put the Savall first, with the energetic and often brilliant London Baroque next.
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