| Cadogan Hall, London
PCM 3: Les Talens Lyriques
|Cadogan Hall, London, 5 Sloane Terrace, London SW1X 9DQ, United Kingdom|
Monday 1-Aug-11 01:00pm
PCM 3: Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset’s supremely elegant ensemble, which has been breathing new life into the rich legacy of the French Baroque for more than 20 years, presents a programme squarely in the Gallic tradition but with influences from across the Alps. The programme includes a selection from Couperin’s colourful Les nations and Rameau’s delicately poised Pièces en concerts. Less familiar may be the eloquent cantata by Michel Pignolet de Montéclair, an important musical figure in the period between Lully and Rameau, who counted Couperin’s daughters among his pupils. The story of Lucretia and her suicide is taken up by a young soprano who has been making quite a name for herself since abandoning a career in medicine for the healing balm of music.
Christophe Rousset's Les Talens Lyriques, founded in 1991, is inextricably linked with the music of the French Baroque. Rousset cut his teeth in William Christie's similar outfit, Les Arts Florissants, before branching out to explore works off the beaten track of Charpentier, Couperin, et al. That's not to say that this ensemble still doesn't have something to offer through the works of these more established composers however, as their programme revealed.
Opening with the fourth (La Piémontoise) of Couperin's suites, Les Nations, Rousset demonstrated how to navigate the stylish complexities of the French Baroque with elegant poise. Indeed, despite Couperin's determination to juxtapose the supposedly contrasting French and Italian styles – each of Les Nations prefaces a French suite with an Italianate 'sonade' – the result is decidedly Gallic throughout. One of the particular challenges with this French style is achieving any sense of line or direction: the often spacious notation and momentary nature of the music lends itself all too easily to stagnant renditions. The answer was to let the music sit forwards, never becoming heavy and always moving upwards. The doubling of violin and flute on each superior line added to the lightness of touch, and their blend was exquisite.
Soprano Eugénie Warnier joined Les Talens Lyriques in two 'scena'. The first was by Lully from his ballet (essentially an opera with a lot of dancing), Les amours déguisés, expressing Armida's concern as to her love's (Rinaldo) whereabouts. Warnier's voice, whilst attractive, failed to convey the emotions of the text and her manner was introverted. Fortunately the rediscovered solo cantata, Morte de Lucretia by Montéclair, found a more varied and coloured range to her voice and the death aria was notably beautiful music.
It was Rousset's musical intensity that was most impressive. Through his resolution and commitment not only was it possible to believe that the harpsichord had a dynamic range, but actually to know that this was the case. Similarly just as he displayed seemingly perfect articulation, he insisted on the same variety of attack from his colleagues, unifying their stylish approach into a considered and glorious whole.