Luigi Accardo, Enrico Bissolo harpsichords
Stradivarius STR 37118
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This single disc contains three of Couperin’s fine Nations, 1 La Françoise, 3 L’impériale and 4 La Piémontoise. Each ordre begins with a splendid sonata which is succeeded by a set of dances – the conventional four and a few extras. We often hear this lovely music recorded with pairs of violins, flutes, etc., above the continuo with constantly (and distractingly, I find) changing instrumentation, sometimes even mid-movement. However, this performance goes to the opposite extreme, taking up the composer’s suggestion that two harpsichords ‘as I play them with my family and students’ can do the job ‘quite successfully’.
Actually, I think Couperin might well have felt that this duo bring it off ‘very successfully’. With two excellent double-manual instruments at their disposal (which they exploit with restraint and bon gôut), the performers give us a consistently rich and pleasing sound and their ensemble in all matters is exceptional. The only (minor) flaw in their plan is built into the system – the doubled bass sometimes feels a bit too strong. However, as a member of a regular duo myself, I can testify that only reviewers ever comment on this!
The booklet (in Italian, English and French) tells us what we need to know although the ‘English’ is pretty grim, especially in the biographies. But I really enjoyed the playing.