Couperin (Le) Portrait de l'Amour
From the music of François Couperin, Aline Zylberajch and Martin Gester have assembled a Watteau-esque idyll fit for a king. A manuscript trio sonata from the early 1690s and one of the chamber concerts included in his collection entitled Les Goûts-réunis add further instrumental timbres to what is otherwise a showcase for the ravishing Ruckers-Taskin harpsichord from the Musée de la Musique at the Cité de la Musique in Paris. The excellent booklet notes by Denis Herlin provide all you might wish to know about the background of the music.
The scale of the performances is miniaturist and very much in keeping with the spirit of the music. Everything is delicately balanced, gently phrased. We are encouraged by the way the CD has been recorded to listen much as a privileged few once did in a salon at Versailles nearly 300 years ago.
Aline Zylberajch plays with great skill, judgment and empathy for the music. She never imposes herself, opting instead for understatement. Couperin’s own musical imagery, sometimes clearly signed (as in Les Folies Frandaises) and elsewhere caché, is allowed to emerge spontaneously. Straightaway, in the first track (Le Dodo ou l’Amour au Berceau) we are lulled by the caressing trills; it has the effect here of transporting the listener to mythical Cythera. In the Les Verger Fleuris the drone sounds rather like the wheels of the farm wagons; in La Diligente Zylberajch makes Couperin’s scales sound witty.
The members of Le Parlement de Musique take their cue from her, and from the aristocratic Ruckers-Taskin, producing a lovely unaffected sound. For me the most evocative moments come in Il Rittratto dell’Amore when the viol and theorbo accompany the violin or the flute (listen, for example to tracks 17, 20 and 25-6). It is surely this music that inspired Watteau’s scenes of concerts champêtres.