The title of this disc, ‘Transfigurations’, is an umbrella for Les Esprits Animaux’s latest journey into the musical past, although the programme itself takes some fathoming. Neither chronological nor governed by national origins, it is a creative exploration of sources of musical inspiration and their metamorphoses. Hence we hear works, often quite virtuoso, spanning more than a century and a half, that illustrate ground bass (trs 1, 15 16) fugue and canon (trs 2, 3), variation (tr 19) and the use of folk and popular operatic songs (trs 4 14, 17 18). The members of Les Esprits Animaux take as their mission the aim of reinvigorating our experience of Baroque music. Their interpretations are lively and affectionate, imaginative and alert to opportunities for taking time and adding ornamentation. Their own dazzling contribution – the finale to the array of divisions on ‘John come kiss me now’ they have assembled – confirms their skill and command of idiom.
Among the other diverse highlights are the arrangements of Bach: the excerpt from The Art of Fugue, intimately scored for violin, viola and cello, and the 14 Canons on the first eight notes of the Aria from the Goldberg Variations. Equally memorable are the three trio sonatas based on Scottish folksongs that Geminiani included in A Treatise on Good Taste (1749), preceded by simple, evocative performances of the folksongs themselves, especially when compared with Corrette’s later Concerto comique for which he took inspiration from Rameau and Rousseau as well as a jolly danse angloise. Overall, a somewhat eccentric mixture but a highly enjoyable CD.