F Couperin: Works for Viols: Suites Nos 1 & 2; Concerts Nos 1 & 2

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LABELS: Mirare
WORKS: Works for Viols: Suites
Nos 1 & 2; Concerts Nos 1 & 2
PERFORMER: Philippe Pierlot, Emmanuel Balssa (bass viol), Eduardo Egüez (theorbo, guitar), Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord)


Couperin’s Suites for viol and continuo have been described as a ‘grave, dense world’ and certainly Philippe Pierlot and his ensemble draw out the dark drama of this music in performances that fuse lyricism with visceral intensity. Their playing throws the music’s emotional extremes into high relief: there is gritty energy in La chemise-blanche; majesty in the E minor Suite’s solemn Sarabande. Particularly beautiful is the second Suite’s Pompe funèbre, a truly sublime meditation on death in which Pierlot seems to make time stand still.The programme also includes a selection of transcriptions of Couperin’s harpsichord works – character pieces that conjure up an 18th-century vision of pastoral Arcadia. Here, in flower-filled orchards (Les vergers fleuris), satyrs dance (Les satires) and bewitching females enchant (L’enchanteresse) and seduce (La séduisante). These pieces transfer particularly well to this combination of instruments, the dark-hued scoring enhancing their melancholy character. Pierlot’s readings range from the poised to the playful: he captures the yearning poetry of Couperin’s more wistful utterances and the earthy spirit of his rustic dances. If the composer has sometimes suffered from overly effete, decorous performances, these intense accounts redress the balance.