SONATES ET SUITES / CHÉDEVILLE: Sonata VI. PHILIDOR: Sonate pour la Flûte à Bec. DIEUPART: 6 Suites de Clavecin: Première Suite. MARAIS: Couplets de Folies (Les Folies d’Espagne). HOTTETERRE: Trosième Suite – Sonate. LECLAIR: Second Livre de Sonates: Sonata XI. BLAVET: Troisième Livre de Sonates: Sonata II. CHÉRON: Sonates et en Duo et en Trio: Sonate III / Dan Laurin, recorder; Anna Paradiso, harpsichord; Domen Marinčič, cello / BIS 2185
“In early 18th-century France, music existed in a vacuum,” writes Dan Laurin in his informative notes for this release, explaining that it was due to “a kind of artistic censorship in the form of royal privileges, required for anyone who wished to print and distribute music…In spite of the strict regulations, the French musical idiom was nevertheless highly sophisticated and refined, to a degree possible only in a culture which restricts itself to looking inwardly, and ultimately backwards, at a glorious past.” His mission, then, is to bring this music to as many people as possible, to have them appreciate its many beauties and try to forget the elitist atmosphere in which it was written.
And he succeeds in doing so.
Laurin and his wife, the scintillating harpsichordist Anna Paradiso, are throwbacks to the early years of historically-informed practice, the 1970s, when such pioneers as Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Frans Brüggen, Gustav Leonhardt and Anner Bylsma ruled the roost. They tried to emulate the techniques of earlier centuries, but they also deeply loved the music they played and sought to bring out this love in animated performances that made the notes jump off the page. They were not pedants sitting around pulling on their chins, worrying that their viols didn’t sound anemic enough, their recorders weren’t dry enough in tone, and their harpsichords had too rich and beautiful a tone for the music. They wanted it to live. Think of the groups led by Joel Cohen and Alan Curtis in addition to those led by Brüggen and Leonhardt. Their performances were animated; they had life; they were fun to listen to.
And these are the qualities Laurin and Paradiso bring to this new CD, aided and abetted by Baroque cellist Marinčič who, I can assure you, plays with a full, rich tone and evidently enjoys this experience as much as the others. There is not a note or phrase in this entire recital that does not bustle with life. Laurin and company so obviously love playing music that their enjoyment is carried over to the listener. They do not set out to destroy your listening pleasure. They want you, the audience, to be a participant in their own joy of discovery and performance.
Laurin’s skills have, if anything, gotten better and better over the years. He always was one of the most accomplished players of his instrument back in the 1980s, but now he has such total command of the recorder that every grace note and turn falls from his lips like ripples in a stream—completely natural, as if there is no other way to play this music. But I know there are other ways of playing it; I’ve heard them; and they pale by comparison with what he does here.
In most of these sonatas and suites Paradiso takes a back seat in the role of accompanist, yet her parts have their own little flourishes in them which she handles with the charm and verve I’ve come to expect from her. Happily, she is well recorded (not always the case in Baroque suite performances…go back and listen to how poorly Sylvia Marlowe was recorded in her version of Couperin’s Le Parnasse ou l’Apotheose de Corelli with the great flautist Claude Monteux in the 1950s), and thus is able to consistently enliven the proceedings with her cheerful, bouncing sense of rhythm. But perhaps cellist Marinčič impressed me the most simply because I was least familiar with his work. His full, rich tone both complements and buoys the trio sound, providing a solid base for the two higher instruments, and I especially appreciated his way of “nudging” the beat forward, constantly keeping things moving in his own way.
One of the highlights of this recital is Laurin’s own arrangement for recorder of Marin Marais’ well-known Couplets de Folies. And does he ever play it! But I hesitate to say, as the publicity blurb for this CD does, that this is the “highlight” of the CD, because every track is a highlight in its own way. Laurin and company have chosen the specific works for this disc well, with the result that there isn’t a dull moment from start to finish. In addition to his transcription of the Marais piece, Laurin has also transcribed Lean-Marie Leclair’s Violin Sonata No. 11 for recorder.
For those who have always felt—or been convinced by other dry, dull, HIP readings of this or similar pieces—that the music of the French baroque is a pretty dull and dismal affair, you need to get this CD to change your mind. For Laurin and/or Paradiso fans, this is yet another example of why they are considered among the tops in their field. You can’t make music this well unless you put your whole heart into it, and this is what this trio does. Oh, yes, and the sound quality is clear and forward, the way I like it. If you enjoy Baroque chamber music, this is an essential release.
— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley