Atsushi Sakai plays Forqueray

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Antoine Forqueray
LABELS: Aparté
ALBUM TITLE: Forqueray
WORKS: Suites Nos 1-5
PERFORMER: Atsushi Sakai, Marion Martineau (viol), Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: Atsushi Sakai, Marion Martineau (viol), Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)


One of the celebrated viol players at the court of Louis XIV, the notorious but prodigiously gifted Antoine Forqueray was said to ‘play like the devil’ – indeed, his lurid biography suggests the two were in league. Such facility on the instrument resulted in highly idiomatic, often virtuoso writing that fully exploits the rich potential of this ‘king of instruments’: layered counterpoint, resonant harmonies, ornate and lyrical melodies, and a gamut of colours, shades, and special effects. Forqueray’s suites consist of colourfully-named movements, including dances, fantasy-like musings, evocations of places and sounds, or character portraits of friends and fellow composers like Couperin, Rameau, and Leclair. So forward-looking is some of the writing that it seems Forqueray’s son, Jean-Baptiste, may well have elaborated some of the pieces after his father’s death.

Atsushi Sakai makes an impressive recording debut as a gamba soloist here. His phrasing is poetic, the tone by turns robust and delicate, his technique flawless. Experience as a jazz musician gives Sakai a free and pliant approach, yet it’s always informed by the refined aesthetic of the French Baroque idiom.

The spotlight falls not only on the solo viol, as each instrument contributes an essential thread to these musical discourses. Sakai is joined by the most eloquent conversationalists, Christophe Rousset (harpsichord) and Marion Martineau (continuo viol). A shade more detail on the harpsichord would have been welcome in what is a rather open recorded balance. Nonetheless, these memorable accounts bear comparison with the classic recording from the 1990s by Paolo Pandolfo. Sakai’s full-bodied tone is more incisive than Pandolfo’s, while the latter’s continuo ensemble (including theorbo and Baroque guitar) is more colourful.


Kate Bolton-Porciatti