Couperin: Concert dans le goût théâtral; Airs de cour

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Couperin
LABELS: Naïve Astrée
WORKS: Concert dans le goût théâtral; Airs de cour
PERFORMER: Karina Gauvin, Sandrine Rondot, Isabelle Desrochers (soprano), Vincent Lecornier (bass); Capriccio Stravagante Orchestra/Skip Sempé
CATALOGUE NO: E 8820
A Couperin opera? This is no sensational new discovery but a speculative creation; a fantasy opera that never existed, although its components are genuine.

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In 1724 François Couperin published his Les goûts-réunis, ou Nouveaux concerts, a set of pieces for small chamber ensemble. In the mid-Eighties, musicologist Peter Holman suggested that the eighth ‘Concert’, a homage to trágedie lyrique entitled Concert dans le goût théâtral, may have originally been composed as an acte de ballet, ie an orchestral work for the stage. Now Skip Sempé has taken the speculation a giant leap further. He’s orchestrated (and reordered) the Concert dans le goût théâtral, then interpolated Couperin’s 12 surviving Airs de cour to create a set of tableaux – divertissements – modelled, he says, ‘on the short operas by Charpentier or Rameau’.

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The Airs de cour, which include comic drinking songs, bawdy ditties (sample title ‘Three Virgins and Three Lusty Lads’) and a handful of lovely airs sérieux, sit together rather awkwardly in this context. But they’re beautifully sung, Sempé’s arrangements – of both Airs and Concert – are very persuasive, and the 25-piece Capriccio Stravagante Orchestra plays with deft authority. In short, an imaginative, lovingly crafted pastiche on the pleasures of hot love, cool wine and imaginary opera. Graham Lock