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La Rêveuse bring us a disc of splendid music-making. If the finely phrased strings bursting with vivacity in the opening movement of William Babell’s Concerto in D somehow don’t hook you, then the second movement will stop you in your tracks. On his ‘sixth flute’, a small descant recorder in D, Sébastien Marq produces a note that makes one’s lung capacity feel entirely inadequate. Lasting a staggering 21 seconds – and bear in mind that Corelli’s violinists had to produce a forte double-stopped bow stroke of 10 seconds to deserve a place in his orchestra – Marq’s single note charts a journey from penetrating whistle to morning birdsong, eventually unfolding into aria. In a world of fake news, it is a breath of fresh air: the undoctored frailty, the teeniest wavering in pitch make the music more real, more alive with sincerity. It garners a type of listening that relishes the beauty of blemish. And when we embrace these shifting standards, magical things happen: ornamentation is carried to our ears on the wind, luscious string ritornellos don’t merely punctuate the solo recorder’s song but rather wash the scene in bronzed legato. The final Allegro is all you could want (and expect) from a recorder concerto: delicious romp and combative virtuosity in spades.
The theme of the disc makes for
a lovely coherence between works (though I’m not sure that the arrangement of
the aria ‘Spera si mio caro bene’ from Handel’s opera Admeto quite fits).
There is enough variety, both timbral and affectual, to keep one in sonic
rapture, and the unfamiliar composers and historical arrangers Johann Christian
Schickhardt, Nicola Francesco Haym and Pietro Chauboud are presented in an
excellent light. Yet it is the individual and plentiful moments of beauty that
make this album so enthralling. Stéphan Dudermel’s sound in the Violin Sonata in
D by Geminiani is quite simply stunning. His Adagio is loving, bright,
soft-skinned and soul-searching. Or theorbist Benjamin Perrot’s gorgeous
plucking in ‘Thus with thirst my souls expiring’, arranged by Chauboud, which
intermingles with Florence Bolton’s dense – sometimes pungently so – gamba
sound. It’s heady stuff; a fabulous final track to an all-round superb album.
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