Couperin: Les muses naissantes

Brice Sailly harpsichord, Emanuelle De Negri soprano, La chambre claire
67:30
Ricercar RIC 387

This is a carefully compiled anthology that draws on Couperin’s keyboard, instrumental chamber and secular vocal music to depict the Arcadian pastoral world of which so much French music is an idealised reflection. As such it also serves as a good introduction to the breadth of the composer’s achievement in this, his anniversary year. I have to say that I particularly enjoyed the singing of Emmauelle De Negri in the various airs. Her vibrato seldom feels intrusive and her ornamentation is neatly sung. Not that there’s anything wrong with the playing of the instrumentalists (viol, flute, oboe, bassoon, violin as well as harpsichord), though as usual I wonder if they really should vary instrumentation within movements. The harpsichord is a copy of a famous Ruckers and does sound really lovely. Supporting the performances is a slightly eccentric essay which if nothing else conveys the emotional commitment of the artists and offers some interesting ideas about the music and composer. Overall this is an unusual release in these days of ‘completist’ projects, and very welcome.

David Hansell

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