Couperin: Les nations

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LABELS: Teldec Das Alte Werk
WORKS: Les nations
PERFORMER: Quadro Amsterdam; Marie Leonhardt (violin), Frans Vester (flute)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-93689-2 ADD Reissue (1969)
These vintage recordings by four of the grand old men of the early music revival make curious listening. Back in the mid 1960s their treatment of Couperin’s leavening of Italian directness with French grace in trio sonata form had something a cutting edge air. Thirty-five years on, many of these performances, while undeniably musical, seem quaint, the ornamentation unidiomatic and the violin and flute sound bland and undercharacterised. Their own later work, and incidentally their legacy in the performing of pupils and successors, address this lovely music with far more engagement, from the inside rather than tentatively from without. Jan Smaczny