Paris in the early 18th century was shaking off the strict regime of the Sun King Louis XIV. All of the moral codes and laws associated with the latter years of his reign were cast aside, much to the joy of Parisians – especially the artistic fraternity. Artists from all over Europe flocked to the city to take advantage of the new easy going regime of the regent Duke of Orleans – the heir, Louis XV being too young to rule. The "French School" of music flourished, and the leading light among composers was Francois Couperin, the newly appointed harpsichordist to the Royal Chamber. One of the works composed at this time was his 'Second Book for the Harpsichord'. It included a rondo with the enigmatic title 'Les Baricades Misterieuses', based closely on a lute piece by Ennemond Gaultier 'La Cascade'. The inclusion of both works on this CD neatly illustrates the close bond between lutenists and harpsichordists in the baroque period.
Les Baricades Mistérieuses - Repeated Delights
A special treat arrived just before Christmas: Miguel Serdoura's first recording on the Brilliant Classics label: Les Baricades Mistérieuses.
Miguel has the most gorgeous sound of any lutenist I have heard, live or on recording. That sound is captured on this CD; it is neither too live or too dead.
The program is built around chaconnes, passacaglias, rondos, and the ever-popular Folies d'Espagne: these are all pieces that are built around repetition. Indeed, some argue over the differences between them: they have entirely too much time on their hands to fuss over such esoteric minutia. It opens with David Kellner's Chaconne in A major (a rather unusual key for the lute), an enormous piece that is technically very demanding, particularly at the end. You would never know it was a challenge. In fact, the entire program is quite challenging; Miguel's style is so simple, lyric, and understated, so that there is no sense of underlying virtuosity. This may put those off, who judge a performance by how dazzling it is.
At 11'28, the Kellner Chaconne is a big piece, but not as big as Miguel's 11'46 version of Vieux Gaultier's La Cascade, piece that is generally pieced together from the multitude of sources, as it was a popular hit in its day. It almost wears out its welcome in this extended version, but it is one of those pieces of surpassing beauty that one wishes wouldn't end.
Miguel plays Françis Couperin's ever-popular Les Baricades Mistérieuses. Apparently, no arrangement is necessary: a 13-course lute has all of the notes one needs, and the piece falls naturally onto the instrument's compass. I think this is evidence of the authenticity of the style luthe adopted by the harpsichordists. This piece is over-played by amateurs and professionals alike, and it seems that it gets faster and faster over time, so the only apparent mystery is the question of what exactly is so mysterious! Blandin Verlet plays it in 2'42, Blandine Rannou at 2'25. So, Miguel's more sensible performance at 6'39 may come as a shock. I find his tempo much more convincing, but it is sure to annoy those who view it as a perpetuum mobile, rather than as a rondo.
In addition to his first recording, he has published the first comprehensive baroque lute method through Ut Orpheus. This is a monumental achievement!
Kemer Thomson, USA
Submitted on 03/19/09 by Pete Warwolf