Le Tombeau de Monsieur Lully
Sonata for violin & continuo No. 5 in D major
Sonata for violin & continuo No. 3 in A minor
Sonata for violin & continuo No. 6 in B minor
Sonata for 2 violins & continuo No. 5 in D major ("La Pallas")
Sonata for violin & continuo No. 11 in E major
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The introduction of Italian music into tradition-bound France at the beginning of the eighteenth century was a revolutionary event carrying all kinds of dangerous connotations of individual freedom. The French and Italian styles were symbolically reconciled by François Couperin in "Les goûts réunis" but erupted anew in the operatic polemical war known as the "Querelle des Bouffons." These sonatas for violin and continuo by French court musician Jean-Féry Rebel, dating from the years around 1700, come early in the process of Italian influence; although they are called sonatas, they have French movement titles and simple binary organization within the individual movements, which are very short. Mostly they consist of short bits of instrumental display, cut off and decorously organized lest they get out of hand. The most remarkable piece on the album, and the real reason to have it, is the opening "Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully in C minor." This memorial to Rebel's teacher Lully is one of the few French instrumental works of the period that explores really somber emotions. Rebel begins with a set of French rhetorical gestures and intensifies them with newly discovered Italian expressivity to produce a unique and powerful work. Sample the opening track, which is reprised as track 6, for an idea of its power. Violinist Amandine Beyer and L'assemblé des honnestes curieux give wonderful performances, with a real sense of surprise at Rebel's flights of imagination and a big, rich, expressive sound generated by the continuo trio of bass viol, theorbo, and harpsichord. Those who enjoy the freedom of the middle-Baroque instrumental sonata should experience this unusual French take on the form, especially as it is used to give the tragic sense of a student's tribute to a teacher who has met his untimely demise.
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