Couperin was a futurist, one who wasn't content with the status quo. He felt the French music scene would become stale unless new life was injected into it. His main idea for doing this was to take the best of Italian Baroque and meld it with his own native French Baroque music. The result is the mellifluous and multi-rhythmic musical creation found here in 'Les Nations' vol. 2. All the melody is harmonized, mostly in sweet thirds and sixths enlivened with occasional counterpoints. A surprising amount of the melodic content is in parallel harmonies though, creating an iconic image and style that remain Couperin's identifiable contribution to the annals of Baroque music. The care Couperin put into his work is evident throughout. The music also gets an effective push from the variety of dance rhythms used, a natural element of the Baroque suite as it existed before, in Couperin's time and later as well. Couperin liked to give the suite movements colorful names so instead of simply Allemande, Courante, Saraband and Bouree, he gives 'Sarabande - Tenderment' and 'Chaconne - Legere' and 'Bouree' - Gayement', etc. Whether or not this adds to the enjoyment of the music is up to the listener but I took it as an extra dimension of Couperin's imagination and creativity.
The performance of the Purcell quartet is exemplary. They are sweet sounding, accurate and alert to the rhytmic properties necessary to 'swing' this music and give it sustained interest. The consistant use of parallel harmonies in the melody can become tiresome after nearly an hour, so it is even more important the players are alert to the nuances inherent in the various rhythmic possibilities. Overall this music is gentle, subtle and interesting if you are alert to the slight variants from movement to movement. If you aren't paying close attention, this music can begin to sound all alike. If you focus on the little shifts in rhythm, melodic direction and harmony then you will be rewarded with much pleasure. The sound is excellent as are the notes. This is a quality product from Chandos and the Purcell Quartet are one of the very finest period quartets available to be heard on CD. Couperin's contributions to the evolution of Baroque music are important and it is very good to have this added to the recorded canon. Recommended, especially to fans of the Baroque period.