Dreams and Dances of the Sun King

Hille Perl (viola da gamba) & Lee Santana (theorbo)

Hille Perl
Photograph: www.hillenet.net If our stereotyped image of Louis XIV’s court is one of politesse and exaggerated empty ritual, this is belied by its music: much of the repertoire is deeply intellectual, even formally subversive, and often brims with wit. At Wigmore Hall, Hille Perl and Lee Santana displayed its variety and depth compellingly, occasional rough moments in execution not detracting from the potency of the music and indeed balanced by some passages of glorious timbre.

The D-minor Prélude from Louis Couperin – uncle of François, and intriguingly influenced by Froberger – was sonorous, not at all sunny for the Sun King. There was more light in the Sainte-Colombe piece that followed, with both performers making the most of each note, and some engrossing counterpart as well as driving motion in Forqueray’s Le Leclair.

But the most ear-opening music came from Marin Marais. Here was great energy – for example in the ‘Gigue’ concluding the four pieces that Perl and Santana chose from Marais’s Third Book for viol, and later in the intense selection of variations from the ambitious collection Les folies d’Espagne. There was fascinating complexity, too, notably in the ‘Badinage’ and ‘Labyrinthe’ from the Fourth Book. A welcome change in mood and texture came with de Visée’s three theorbo pieces, played by Santana on a smaller instrument with considered musicianship.

 

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