FRANCOIS COUPERIN: Les Nations – Juilliard Baroque – Naxos

Lots of recordings of this out there, but none better than this.

FRANCOIS COUPERIN: Les Nations – Juilliard Baroque – Naxos 8.573347-48 (2 CDs), 100:13 ****:

François Couperin, known best for his keyboard music, devoted no small amount of time to chamber music too. Les Nations, where French and Italian styles are set forth aside one another, is one of his largest pieces, working on the premise of the Catholic powers of Europe (France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont) and presenting them in a manner befitting one’s appreciation and admiration.

This work, in which no exact instrumentation is specified, uses the freer form of the Italian trio sonata with the structural felicities of the French suite, four trio pieces consisting of a sonata followed by a suite. The work is lively and engaging, and as presented by the Juilliard Baroque—headed by the remarkable and well-seasoned Monica Huggett, the colorful employment of violins, flute, oboe, bassoon, theorbo, baroque guitar, viola da gamba, and harpsichord make for animated renditions of great perspicacity and fervor.

This recording, done in Corpus Christi Church in New York City, is quite the model of radiance and clarity, played to perfection by the assembled forces. Fine music, finely presently.

—Steven Ritter

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