WORKS: Les élémens Suite
PERFORMER: Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel
CATALOGUE NO: 445 824-2 DDD
If you can take Musica Antiqua Köln’s abrasive, vibrato-less string sound, percussive harpsichord, stiff rhythmic delivery and rigid, terraced dynamics, exaggerated by DG’s 4D sound, then this miscellaneous triptych of French and French-inspired late Baroque/ early Classical works may well give great pleasure. Those, however, who prefer a less dogmatic approach will probably find Goebel’s direction impossibly hard and unforgiving. While other groups have realised that historical awareness need not preclude a just measure of expressive nuance, Goebel’s group remains immutably entrenched in the values of a vanished past.
Gluck’s ballet Alessandro fares best, despatched with a vigour and clarity which highlights its melodic focus and suits its noble purity. The Telemann, an attractive five-movement suite à la française, is over-literal and charmless. Goebel’s response to Rebel’s Les élémens is, well, elemental: its opening seven-note chord cluster, depicting Chaos, is properly awesome, but the more conventional dance numbers move awkwardly, insensitive to the subtleties of colour which carry this music along and distinctly lacking in tendresse and le bon goût. Not for the squeamish. Antony Bye