COUPERIN Ariane consolée par Bacchus
Here, for the first time, we can hear what appears to be a lost cantata by François Couperin. Numerous of his secular airs, chansons and canons survive in manuscript and print, but until now none of the cantatas known to have existed at the time of his death (1733) have been found. Rousset’s cogent argument for attributing this anonymous manuscript work, hitherto known only from a 1716 Amsterdam catalogue entry as ‘Ariane abandonée’, is, I believe, compelling.
This Ariane consolée par Bacchus, somewhat unusually, is for a baritone. Although best known as an opera singer and recitalist of later repertoire, Stéphane Degout adjusts his voice to the varied pace within the recitatives and expresses words such as ‘douceur’ in the first Air and the tongue-twisting text of the ritournelle in the final Air with the lightest touch. Moreover, the acoustic of the Eglise Saint-Pierre (Paris) allows us to enjoy both the warmth of his voice and the detail of his fluent ornamentation. The presence of Christophe Coin playing the concertante bass viol part in these tracks adds further to the pleasure to be had from listening to this modern premiere.
The remaining works on the disc were recorded in the exceptional acoustic of the former 14th-century monastery Les Dominicains de Haute-Alsace. Couperin’s entertaining pair of apotheoses accorded to Lully and Corelli is almost unique in the repertoire because of his ‘acerbic’ programmatic commentaries, elegantly delivered here by Rousset from the keyboard. These works have been recorded many times but rarely so well. Rousset’s vision for his ensemble of oboes, flutes, violins and viol is sublime, as too are his harpsichord realisations. This is a landmark recording to treasure.