Couperin: L’Apothéose de Lully, Leçons de ténèbres

Arcangelo, Jonathan Cohen
Hyperion CDA68093

In the general context of current programming styles it feels odd to have a disc which offers two quite unconnected groups of pieces. I must say that I would have preferred to hear L’Apothéose  in the context of other instrumental music and, especially, the famous Leçons  in the company of other petits motets  by Couperin. There are some brilliant examples out there which really are too little sung. Anyway, back to what actually happens. The concert instrumental  is most beautifully played by the strings, with loving attention given to every detail but with no sense of tip-toeing from note to note. I liked having the movements’ titles spoken though they could have been very slightly slower and at a very slightly higher level. The only element that jars is the combination of lute and harpsichord on the continuo. This is just too much and is at times an over-active distraction from the simple nobility of the upper parts. I’m afraid that I did not enjoy the Leçons  quite as much. Others may not be as disturbed by the singers’ vibrato: I would have liked less so that the ornaments, especially the trills, were clearer and more special adornments to the line. In the booklet, Graham Sadler’s elegant note appears in English, French and German though artists’ biographies are in English only, as are the translations of the sung Latin texts.

David Hansell