Monday, March 17, 2014

Florielgium starts strong on Couperin cycle

Channel Classics SACD

Francois Couperin's 1726 work Les Nations consists of four sections, each one representing a different nationality: France, Spain, Imperial (Germany), and Piedmont (Italy). Each section is massive, consisting of a sonata followed by a suite. Florilegium performs the first two in this new release, with a second volume to follow L'imperiale and La piemontaise.

The ensemble strikes just the right balance in their performances. Couperin's music sounds refined and elegant, but not bloodless. Some of the dance movements are quite spirited (in a tasteful fashion), and melodies flow with easy familiarity that bring these works to life.

Rounding out the recording is Les caracteres de la danse by Couperin's contemporary Jean-Fery Rebel. As played by Florilegium, I can hear a distinct difference between the two composers. Rebel's dance suite sounds more lively and spirited, a little less refined, perhaps than Couperin.

The performances are first-rate, as is the recording. If you have a choice between the SACD and the download, I recommend the former. This is intimate music-making, and the additional detail revealed in the SACD (including the sound of the harpsichord action) just adds to the richness of the listening experience.

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