Couperin: Suites No. 1 in E minor for viola da gamba and basso continuo; Suite No. 2 in A for viola da gamba and basso continuo; Le dodo, ou l’amour au berceau; La sultane; La superbe

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COMPOSERS: Couperin
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Suites No. 1 in E minor for viola da gamba and basso continuo; Suite No. 2 in A for viola da gamba and basso continuo; Le dodo, ou l’amour au berceau; La sultane; La superbe
PERFORMER: Jay Bernfeld (viola da gamba), Skip Sempé (harpsichord)Capriccio Stravagante
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77315 2
This is Capriccio Stravagante’s second disc using Stradivari and Amati violins from the collection in the Metropolitan Museum, New York – a rare chance to hear these late 17th-century instruments restored to their original form, without any modern ‘improvements’. The lightness and lucidity of the sound are perfect for Couperin’s intricate writing, and the performances of the two sonades ‘La sultane’ and ‘La superbe’ are technically accomplished and musically thrilling. The charming ‘Le dodo’ is affectingly played on the Amati by Katharina Wolff.

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Couperin turned late in his career to writing for the viol, perhaps in response to the death of the great French player Marin Marais. His two suites for viola da gamba and continuo have a mellow intensity and, in ‘La chemise-blanche’ from the A major Suite, surprising virtuosity. Nothing daunted, Jay Bernfeld plays this last piece with impassioned eloquence, and elsewhere is sensitive to the music’s minute detail. My only hesitation about the collection is the rather reverberant recorded sound which, particularly with the low tessitura instruments, blurs the fine tracery of Couperin’s writing. Kate Bolton