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GRAMOPHONE (12/2020)
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Harmonia Mundi

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020941942


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Reviewer: Mark Seow

Théotime Langlois de Swarte. Have you ever read such a fabulous name? And with fabulous playing to match, it’s a name to remember. In a lovely personal reflection on the processes that led to making his debut solo recording, Langlois de Swarte tells us the album’s inspiration: the ‘utterly sensuous’ Ground by John Eccles, incidental music from a 1695 adaptation of John Fletcher’s The Mad Lover by Peter Motteux. What we’re not told is that Langlois de Swarte is the mad lover for this album. Well, not so much mad, but rather the myriad things we associate with being in love.

Langlois de Swarte evokes aching besottedness with unperformative candour. The delightful strumming of Thomas Dunford, a partner in equally passionate crime, is fluent in teenage giddiness too: his accompaniment bends and swirls like heart-shaped doodles on school textbooks, ephemeral sonic mist rising from a fluttering heart. The duo swerve between daydreaming optimism (has the tonic major ever sounded so wonderful?) to bruised turmoil. The opening track, the Ground from which the album draws its theme, is a masterclass in love-swept changeability. The listener is pulled in different directions: Dunford’s pluck grows to a thwanging groan, as if the strings of his theorbo were connected to our very own chordae tendineae, while Langlois de Swarte moans in melancholy, quietly dissolving into wistfulness. I might very well be in love.

Admittedly, the bewildered intoxication might be too much for some. But when Langlois de Swarte emplaces the melancholic Affekt within seething virtuosity, it is unignorably eloquent. The Corrente from hanry Eccles’s Sonata undecima in G minor, possibly Langlois de Swarte’s playing at its most excellent, smoulders in seductive fury. The performances from both are imaginative, quick in colour, corporeal, sexy.

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