FRANÇOIS COUPERIN: Nouveaux concerts – Bruce Haynes, hautboy/Arthur Hass, harpsichord/ Susie Napper, viola da gamba – Atma

by | Oct 26, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN: Nouveaux concerts: Concert No. 7 in G Minor; Nouveaux concerts: Concert No. 11 in C Minor; L’art de touche le clavicin: Prelude No. 5 in A Major; Ordre 15ème de clavecin in A major (excerpts); Concerts royaux: Concert No. 3 in A Major – Bruce Haynes, hautboy / Arthur Haas, harpsichord / Susie Napper, viola da gamba – Atma ACD 2 2168 [Distr. by Naxos], 54:46 ****:
First things first: this recording features the hautboy, the Baroque forerunner of the modern oboe. It has a more plangent, anatine (that sounds nicer than duck-like) sound than the present-day oboe—to this listener closer almost to the sound of the English horn. You’ll have heard the hautboy in authentic-instrument recordings of Baroque music but maybe not front-and-center as in this recording of the Concerts, a series of suites for chamber ensemble by Couperin.
The composer left the instrumentation up to the taste of the performers; besides the oboe, the top line can be played by violin, recorder, or flute, while the bass line can be played by a cello or other bass instrument. Some ensembles add a second or third player to the top line, and the pieces can even be played by solo harpsichordist. Good news for those who like to collect multiple recordings of a piece of music! In his notes to the recording, Bruce Haynes mentions that the Concerts originated from a series of Sunday chamber concerts performed by Couperin himself playing the keyboard plus, apparently, a violinist, a hautboyist, a bassoonist, and a gambist.
The current performances, with an ensemble of just three players, have an especially cozy, drawing-room air about them and seem geared to late-evening listening, after you’ve had your Mahler or Varèse fix for the day. The musétes from the 15ème Ordre and Muzette from the 3ème Concert sound just right on this combination of instruments, the hautboy and viola da gamba being perfect stand-ins for the chanters of the little bagpipe of the title. Not to single out these movements especially: Couperin’s preludes and assorted dance movements have charm aplenty as well.
This is gracious, elegant music beautifully played, with all the sympathy and understanding of early-music specialists. Bruce Haynes, who died this past May, was not only a well-regarded performer on the hautboy and recorder but also an instrument builder and Ph.D. in musicology. So a lifetime of study went into his music-making. For those with a specialist’s interest in such matters, in several of the movements on the recording Haynes plays an hautboy made around 1700 in Paris by Pierre Naust, one of the premiere makers of woodwind instruments of the day. Elsewhere in the program, Haynes plays an hautboy made by Olivier Cottet in 1994. I confess I can’t tell the difference, which must speak well for Cottet’s craftsmanship.
Haynes had an excellent supporting cast in harpsichordist Arthur Haas and cellist/gambist Susie Napper, both of whom are sought after as performers and teachers of Baroque performance practice. The 1998 recording was set down at a small church in Quebec, which lends just the right ambient glow to the proceedings.
—Lee Passarella

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