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François Couperin: Les Nations - Sonades, et Suites de Simphonies en Trio / Juilliard Baroque

Album Summary

>Couperin, François : Les Nations, sonatas & suites for 2 violins & continuo
Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Although François Couperin (1668-1733) is best known today as a composer of harpsichord music, he remained deeply involved in chamber music throughout his career. Les Nations is a vast project in which the virtues of both the French and Italian styles are set next to each other. Each of the four ordres celebrates a Catholic power of Europe - France, Spain, the Holy Roman Empire and the Savoy dynasty of Piedmont - and each is a combination of an Italianate trio sonata with its free-form virtuosity and a large-scale and elaborate French dance suite. Led by the Julliard School's Historical Performance Program artistic director and violinist Monica Huggett, the period-instrument specialist Juilliard Baroque ensemble, featuring nine of the world's most respected and accomplished early music instrumentalists, is a faculty grouping committed to lively, passionate performances of 17th - 18th c. music.

American Record Guide, September/October 2015
This new release by faculty members in the baroque performance program at Juilliard (including again Monica Huggett) also follows this "big band" approach, and the performance is closest to Les Ombres. Still, for a budget recording, I would recommend Juilliard Baroque. My favorite interpretation remains the older recording by the Kuijkens, who have the sensitivity to bring out the elegance in Couperin's music.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Corpus Christi Church, 525 West 121st Street, New York (02/10/2013/12/10/2013).


More renewal than re-crearion
Juilliard Baroque “Francois Couperin: Les Nations” NAXOS

Upon its arrival in France, the Italian trio sonata form was enthusiastically taken up by Francois Couperin, a composer better known today for his works for harpsichord than for his chamber music.

At the time, especially in comparison with the conservative French classical dance tradition, the Italian sonata, written without adherence to either particular structure or text, was considered a radical, freeform musical innovation.

In “Les Nations”, a collection of four nationally themed compositions called ‘ordres’, Couperin combines his earliest trio sonatas with some of his last large scale French dance suites, the resulting contrast providing a chance for listeners (then and now) to appreciate the virtues of both forms.

On their new recording of Couperin’s work, Juilliard Baroque plays with the passion of virtuosi and the deep understanding of scholars; each member of the ensemble is an acknowledged expert at both his/her individual instrument and period performance practices. Their collective sound can be hard to describe; it’s not so much a re-creation as a renewal, breathing new life into Couperin’s music. (Special mention should be made of oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz, who pulls quadruple duty as co-producer, engineer, editor and musician.)

“Les Nations” by Juilliard Baroque may just be the definitive statement of Couperin’s music and should be welcomed by expert and general listeners alike.

Highest possible recommendation 10 out of 10 Oscar O. Veterano

Submitted on 05/19/15 by Oscar O. Veterano 
"Reunited Aesthetic"
The A&R folks at Naxos are clearly on the mark with this project. Just about all of these musicians are prominent in the early music/historically informed performance arena. Needless to say, there are several fine recordings of this magnum opus by Couperin, including a very stylish version from 1962 featuring Neville Marriner on first violin shortly before he seriously took up the baton. This superb new Julliard Baroque issue is notably complete (“Ordres” 1-4, 100 minutes). The transparency of texture produced by these 8 musicians is matched by their elegant handling of ornamentation. The Italianate sonatas are beautifully shaped and rhythmically alert as are the alternately buoyant and stately French dance movements. Tempi are well judged throughout. The sound pickup is focused and natural. The topnotch liner notes contain a detailed history and analysis of the music. This release readily takes its place among the top 2-3 available versions.
Submitted on 05/29/15 by Allen Cohen 
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Works Details

>Couperin, François : Les Nations, sonatas & suites for 2 violins & continuo
  • Ensemble: Juilliard Baroque
  • Notes: Corpus Christi Church, 525 West 121st Street, New York City (02/10/2013/12/10/2013)
  • Running Time: 6 min. 28 sec.
  • Period Time: Baroque