Routes du café

Cantatas by bernier and Bach on the theme of coffee's arrival in Europe CD cover

Ensemble Masques, Olivier Fortin
71:39
Alpha Classics Alpha 543
Music by Bach, Bernier, Locke, Marais & Nâyi Osman Dede (+Tanburi Cemil Bey & Kathleen Kajioka)

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This clever CD charts the spread of coffee through Europe, starting with the original cafés in Turkey and then finding music associated with its arrival in France, England and Germany. The famous coffee cantata by Bach finds an equally witty contemporary French counterpart in the cantata Le Caffe by Nicolas Bernier, while France is also represented by the viol piece Saille du caffé by Marin Marais. In London Matthew Locke’s Consort of Fower Parts, we have the sort of music he and Pepys might well have played together when they met in the Turk’s Head coffee house around 1660. The rest of the music is Turkish traditional music played either by a Turkish instrument ensemble or by Kathleen Kajioka on the violin to the accompaniment of Turkish percussion. The Bernier with its obbligato flute part is charming, while the Bach, also with obbligato flute, is very effectively dramatised by the three singers. Soprano Hana Blažíková sounds a little taken by surprise by some of the more eccentric musical phrases in the Bernier and doesn’t sound entirely comfortable in the higher passages in the Bach, but the two men help to keep things on the rails. The mixing of Baroque music and the traditional music of the east doesn’t always work, but here I feel it does so very well. In particular, Kathleen Kajioka’s violin Taksim and Wahda sound very much like the sot of music that might have been played in the cosmopolitan London coffee houses of yore!

D. James Ross