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An Italian in Paris

The Bach Players

  • sample

    For a sample (the opening of Couperin’s La Pucelle), click above

  • dimensions

    130 x 134 mm

  • playing time


[HPM 007]

In France at the end of the seventeenth century Corelli’s influence was enormous. The more rational, formal French style had been dominated by Lully; French composers had to admit secretly to liking the more emotional Italian style. This rich banquet of private music composed for Louis XIV shows the first experiments in France with the Italian style. The disc concludes with what has been claimed as the first French sonata, an extraordinary work composed by Charpentier for eight instruments.

The music

François Couperin (1668–1733): La Pucelle

Marin Marais (1656–1728): Prélude in E minor

Jean-Féry Rebel (1666–1747): Violin sonata in E minor no. 4

Jean-Baptiste Lully (attr.): Chaconne in C major

Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665–1729): Sonata no. 4 in C minor

Louis-Nicolas Clérambault (1676–1749): Chaconne in D major

François Duval (1672–1728): Suite in G major

Angelo Michele Bartolotti (fl. 1640–80): Chaconne in C major

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643–1704): Sonata in C major for eight instruments

The musicians

The Bach Players:
Marion Moonen flute
Rachel Beckett flute
Nicolette Moonen violin & director
Oliver Webber violin
Reiko Ichise viola da gamba
Kinga Gáborjáni 5-string basse de violon
Lynda Sayce theorbo
Silas Wollston harpsichord

Recording & production

Producer: Roy Mowatt
Recording engineer: Alan Mosley

Recorded at St Michael’s Church, Highgate, London, 22 to 24 July 2013


A 24-page accompanying booklet includes an essay on the music by the musicologist Catherine Cessac, given in French and in English translation. There are informal photographs of the musicians in rehearsal, and a note on the engraving used on the cover of the CD pack – taken from a set of engravings by Antoine Trouvain (1694–6).


This is a fascinating collection of music, composed largely by French composers but under Italian stylistic influence and exploiting the sound of the violin both on its own and in a duo. It starts with Couperin’s ‘La Pucelle’, his first exercise in combining the Italian and French styles, and ends with Charpentier’s large-scale Sonata for eight instruments. In between we have fine sonatas by de La Guerre and Rebel, chaconnes by Bartolotti, Lully and Clérembault, and a suite by Duval. Listeners can amuse themselves spotting Italianate and French idioms but ultimately it is the synthesis of the two which is strikingly brought out here. In the course of the disc’s preparation a chaconne-like Prélude traditionally attributed to Lully was recognised as actually composed by Marais ‘pour le coucher du Roy’. Played here on two flutes it symbolises the marriage of the two traditions. Everything is beautifully performed and recorded by a variety of combinations taken from the eight instruments so well characterised and exploited by Charpentier in his fine sonata. As always the Bach players perform with a real sense of commitment to the music and with great unanimity of purpose. Highly recommended indeed.
Noel O’Regan, Early Music Review, June 2014

The ensemble’s manner is decorous and refined, focused on beauty of tone, grace and fluid articulation: in short, very French. While the chosen tempos are not slow or staid, even the most agitated movements stop short of ltalianate fire and impetuous virtuosity. The delicately textured, almost velvety violins and slightly reedy bass instruments are complemented by impressively full-sounding flutes. … This is a seductive disc that I have found hard to remove from my CD player.
Christopher Price , International Record Review, October 2014

There are treasures and surprises aplenty on this menu, crowned by Charpentier’s masterly Sonata in C major for eight instruments. All is played with stylistic fluency and textural clarity.
Nicholas Anderson, Early Music Today, December 2014 — February 2015

A further disc in The Bach Players’ series, ‘An Italian in Paris’, explores the somewhat subversive attempts of a first generation of French composers to get to grips with the medium of the solo and trio sonata, newly imported from Italy during the final decades of the 17th century. This recording demonstrates the remarkable assurance with which these pioneering composers assimilated the musical language of Italy, each producing an individual synthesis. The programme begins and ends with the first works of this kind: Couperin’s trio sonata ‘La Pucelle’ (which the composer felt compelled to pass off as an Italian work) and Charpentier’s amazing sonata for eight instruments, almost certainly the earlier of the two. In between come impressively mature solo sonatas by Jean-Féry Rebel and Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, a suite by Duval and contrasting chaconnes by Lully, Clérambault and Bartolotti. This is another splendid anthology, and my sole reservation is that the Couperin sonata presented here is not, in fact, ‘La Pucelle’ but the substantially revised version which the composer incorporated as the ‘sonade’ in ‘La Françoise’ some three decades later. But this matters little when set against The Bach Players’ stylish and committed playing.
Graham Sadler, Early Music, May 2015