musica Dei donum
Repast Baroque Ensemble
rec: May 28, 29 & 31, 2010, Brooklyn, NY, St Francis Xavier Church (chapel)
MSR Classics - MS1488 (© 2010) (65'22")
Cover & track-list
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707):
Sonata for violin, viola da gamba and bc in g minor, op. 2,3 (BuxWV 261) ;
François COUPERIN (1668-1733):
Le Parnasse ou L'Apothéose de Corelli, Grande Sonate en trioa;
Carolus HACQUART (1640-1701):
Sonata VI in d minor, op. 2,6a ;
Jean-Marie LECLAIR (1697-1764);
Sonata for violin, viola da gamba and bc in D, [op. 2,8] ;
Jacques MOREL (c1700-1749):
Chaconne en trio for violin, viola da gamba and bc ;
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Pièces de clavecin en concert, 3e Concert in A 
 Carolus Hacquart, Harmonia parnassia, op. 2, 1686;
 Dietrich Buxtehude, VII Suonate, op. 2, 1696;
 Jacques Morel, 1er livre de pièces de violle, c1710;
 Jean-Marie Leclair, Second livre de sonates, c1728;
 Jean-Philippe Rameau, Pieces de clavecin en concerts, 1741
Amelia Roosevelt, violin;
John Mark Rozendaal, viola da gamba;
Avi Stein, harpsichord
with: Claire Jolivet, violina
This disc is the kind of concert of baroque music which one could hear in a concert hall or church. The programme includes pieces of different characters and from various traditions. It is also a mixture of famous and less well-known pieces.
The Sonata VI in d minor by Carolus Hacquart falls into the latter category. Even the composer is an unknown quantity to most music-lovers. He was born in Bruges and moved to Amsterdam in the early 1670s. He composed sacred works and music for the theatre. The collection Harmonia parnassia (1686) includes ten sonatas in three and four parts. Every sonata comprises a number of contrasting movements. They are clearly influenced by the Italian style; Hacquart mixes the forms of the sonata da chiesa and the sonata da camera. In some way Buxtehude's sonatas for violin, viola da gamba and bc are more 'old-fashioned' as they reflect the stylus phantasticus which emerged in the early decades of the 17th century in Italy. It was embraced by composers from northern Germany and translated to their organ works. Buxtehude was one of the exponents of the North-German organ school. His sonatas were probably played by the Ratsmusik, the ensemble engaged by the city council of Lübeck. They may have been performed during the Abendmusiken or in the homes of the upper echelon of society. The Sonata in g minor consists of a sequence of short movements of contrasting tempo and character. Some movements end with a transitional episode which lead into the next movement.
Over the years I have often heard performances of German or Italian baroque music by Anglosaxon ensembles which I found rather middle-of-the-road. There is nothing middle-of-the-road here. Amelia Roosevelt has played with several German ensembles and the colouring in her playing, her articulation and the dynamic shading shows that she has learnt a thing or two from them. This is exactly how this repertoire needs to be played.
The artists are well aware of the differences between the German and Italian styles on the one hand and the French style on the other. The latter is more elegant, less radical and more restrained - a reflection of society as it was under the ancien régime. Couperin's Apothéose de Corelli is one of his best-known pieces, and programmatic in that he confesses his admiration for the music of Corelli and the Italian style in general. However, the music is still every inch French, and that is well conveyed here. The ensemble of the two violinists is excellent and they bring out the character of the various (programmatic) movements very well. Especially nice is the fifth movement: "After his enthusiasm Corelli sleeps, and his entourage plays the following sleep music very softly". It is performed with great subtlety.
Leclair is a composer of the next generation who was active in a time that the Italian style was more or less accepted in France. He went to Italy to study, and this had a lasting influence on his style of composing. The op. 2 is a set of twelve sonatas for violin and bc, but some have the traces of a trio sonata as here and there the viola da gamba has a more independent part. The opening adagio ends with a short transitional passage of a dramatic character. The interpretation here creates a considerable amount of tension which is then resolved in the ensuing allegro. The sarabande is a particularly expressive movement which is followed by a brilliant allegro assai.
Rameau's Pièces de clavecin en concert are well-known, partly because of their historical importance. In 1734 Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville had published a set of sonatas for harpsichord and violin, the first publication of this kind. The popularity of this form inspired Rameau to compose these five concerts for harpsichord and two melody instruments, published in 1741. The word concert has nothing to do with the solo concerto; it merely means that these pieces can be played in ensemble. A number of movements are character pieces. The 3e Concert begins with La LaPouplinière which refers to Rameau's patron Alexandre-Jean-Joseph Le Riche de la Pouplinière. The second movement is entitled La Timide which is well reflected in the restrained character of the music, and which receives exactly the right performance here. The work ends with the vigorous Tambourins; Rameau makes use here of music from one of his operas. The performers end the piece in style with a dramatic gesture.
The programme ends with a chaconne en trio by Jacques Morel, one of the lesser-known composers of the French baroque. He was a gambist and a pupil of Marin Marais. The chaconne is taken from the only extant collection of music from his pen, including four gamba suites, which he dedicated to Marais. The chaconne was an important form in French music, especially in operas. There is something electrifying in such pieces because of the almost endless repetition of the same bass pattern. Only in this piece Morel added a treble part. It receives a engaging performance.
I have greatly enjoyed this disc. The artists show much insight into the repertoire they have chosen and are well aware of their differences. This results in performances which are spot-on. If you would like to listen to an hour of baroque music of a various character, you are well served by this disc. The mixture of the famous and less-renowned only adds to its attraction. I hope to hear more from this ensemble.
Johan van Veen (© 2014)
Repast Baroque Ensemble