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Music for French Kings

Amanda Babington (musette), Claire Babington (cello), David Smith (harpsichord) (Deux-Elles)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Music for French Kings
Works by Anon, Borjon, C Charpentier, Chédeville, Hotteterre, D Scarlatti
Amanda Babington (musette), Claire Babington (cello), David Smith (harpsichord)
Deux-Elles DXL1188   50:38 mins

Readers with affection for French Baroque opera will be familiar with the musette – not the dance galanteries from which they take the name and, to varying degrees, derive their character, but the bellows-blown instrument. Amanda Babington is an accomplished virtuoso who is exploring its extensive repertoire. The Bourbon dynasty seem to have had a particular liking for the musette and this recording offers a conspectus of the sort of thing they enjoyed.

The best-known names here are Nicolas Chédeville, who was not above arranging and publishing other composer’s music under his own name, Jean Hotteterre, and Domenico Scarlatti, who almost certainly had nothing at all to do with the four Sonatas included in the programme. The pieces, all under four minutes, are mainly dances in character and metre, if not in name.

Among the most appealing is a suite by an anonymous composer from a collection pleasingly titled Les Amusements de Chambre. It seems to me a pity, though, that the recording is given over solely to the musette. Almost an hour of its sound, uninterrupted, somewhat diminishes its credentials. Surely cellist Claire Babington and harpsichordist David Smith might have been allowed a sonata or two to provide a much needed variety in timbre.

Nicholas Anderson