Louis (c.1626-1661), François le Grand (1668-1733) and Armand-Louis (1727-1789) were the three most celebrated members of the distinguished Couperin family of musicians who flourished from the late 16th century until the middle of the 19th, holding a position of esteem parallel to that of the Bachs in Germany.
The Sultan and the Phoenix presents both masterpieces and rare gems from the Couperins and their contemporaries, all delivered with a rare insight by the ensemble charivari agréable. The programme presents an overview of the ensemble use of the viol in its various manifestations and stages of evolution in France. The Couperin dynasty offers a convenient chronological framework within which the viol could be heard in various guises: from a consort setting to a ‘pièces de clavecin en concerts’ configuration; from a six-string bass viol to a five-string hybrid ‘quinton’. Underpinning this programme is the historical practice of adaptation, transcription and arrangement with which French baroque music is replete.
Historical tradition is followed by the arrangement of some pieces by the players. Some involved direct transcription, such as the L. Couperin Pavan for a viol consort or the F. Couperin harpsichord piece for theorbo (in the style of de Visée, see above). Other pieces are left untouched, such as L. Couperin’s Fantaisies and Corrette’s Phénix, as well as the large-scale chamber works of Dornel and Couperin.
Charivari Agréable’s reputation as one of the most original ensembles in the period-instrument scene was recently articulated by the BBC Music Magazine, which noted that the ensemble “has carved something of a niche for itself in imaginative and well thought-out programming”, reasoning that its work is the fruit of both scholarly research and charismatic musicianship, a combination which puts it at the forefront of period-instrument ensembles.