Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations Dance, Dance, Dance

Terpsichore, the Greek goddess of dance and chorus. How appropriate that her delight in dancing should be honored in Terpsichore: Apotheóse de la Danse baroque (Alia Vox), the latest beautifully produced and packaged Alia Vox SACD from Jordi Savall and his baroque orchestra, Le Concert des Nations. Filled with high energy orchestral music by Jean-Ferry Rebel (1666–1747) and the even longer-lived Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767), the recording exalts the exuberant French style of instrumental dance music that became popular during the rise of the baroque orchestra in the courts of Kings Henry IV and Louis XIII in the early 17th century.

Rebel's La Terpsichore (1720), Les Caractères de la Danse (1715), Les plaisirs champêtres (1724), and Fantasie (1729) are the big finds here. Auditioned in 24/88.2, Savall's baroque orchestra of 22 players fills the space with some of the most delightful and graceful court music you may ever wish to hear. The lightness and unstudied elegance of Rebel's music not only set it apart from the pack; they also provide a fitting showcase for the many sides of Savall, a conductor and viola da gamba master whose frequent tackling of weighty subjects that include racism, xenophobia, and the need for unity amongst diverse nations has clearly not robbed him of joy.

Once you hear this recording, which includes all of Rebel's principal works in the world of dance and choreographed symphonies, you will not question Savall's assertion in the liner notes that "Rebel created the first and most beautiful choreographed symphonies on dance." Nor will you fail to notice that the German-born Telemann, that great friend of Handel who wholeheartedly embraced the French style and became one of its great exponents in Germany, writes in a weightier but no less engaging style. Prepared to be wowed by the concluding "Furioso" movement of Telemann's Ouverture-Suite in B (1733) from Tafelmusik, Part III, No.1 for two oboes, two solo violins, two violins, viola and basso continuo. Paying as much attention to his bass foundation to his tangy, soaring strings, Savall encourages his orchestra to rip into this music for all it's worth.

The recording's sound, captured by David Galán in July 2017 in the modern and superbly resonant Helmut List Hall in Graz, Austria during the annual Styriarte Festival, is so full that it's hard to believe that only 22 people at the most are performing at any one time. Miking is close enough that you'll hear the clicking keys on the baroque woodwinds.

Catherine Cessac, author of a major book on Rebel, contributes detailed liner notes on each of his works on the recording. If you're seeking that kind of analysis, you know where to head. Frankly, I was too busy smiling to think about much else than delight.

Long-time listener's picture

Good stuff!

PAR's picture

I came across this in the week before last's "New Releases" on Qobuz. Some pieces familiar to me, many not. I too had a marvellous time listening to the hi-res stream. I cannot add anything to your excellent and accurate review.

I suspect that this is going to be one of those occasions where I will use Qobuz' download shop to buy a copy for my permanent collection.

jimtavegia's picture

Just the ticket for this Christmas season listening list.



rschryer's picture

Thanks, Jason.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The sound of science? :-) ............

Long-time listener's picture

For anyone who would like to explore further, here are a couple of recommendations. At the time of these recordings, each was basically state-of-the-art, and the sound quality is still excellent today--fresh, clear, and open.

Monteverdi: Bespro della Beata Vergine 1610. I keep searching for new recordings that will please me as much as this one, but have never found one.

Haendel: Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Livelier and more charming than some performances on modern instruments, but without the tenseness or breathlessness that accompany some period-instrument performances. An ideal realization.

Stevens's picture

A curious issue, mainly because it is a live recording in a rather strange venue and J-F Rebel and Telemann aren't exactly a great fit, with very different preoccupations. I've listened to a lot of Savall and I don't recall another live recording, and the two concerts of his I've been to were far more varied and interesting.

At least \I can mention one of my favourite albums, Savall's late wife Montserrat Figuras, here:

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

All of these Savall recordings may very well be live:

Stevens's picture

That's not a lot from his output. He does like recording in authentic settings, sometimes the original setting, and the wonderful Magnificat was recorded in the Royal Chapel in Versailles. Were Terpiscore recorded in the Versailles opera, a fairly modest sized wooden edifice, it might have been more pleasing. I suspect it was probably originally performed in the open air. That place in Graz looks like a big multi-purpose barn.
I dug out the programme of the most recent Savall performance I went to and it was wonderfully put together. That is a feature of Savall's releases.
Telemann may have written quite a lot in the French style in the latter part of his life after a stay in Paris, but he was primarily a German church composer and Tafelmusik was written before he went to Paris. Contrast with the vast French operatic, theatrical and dance repertoire from the 17th and first half of the 18th century. At least my wife enjoyed it, having been a student of French court dance, she was dancing away to the music.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Any review of mine that encourages people to dance makes me proud.

Stevens's picture

... and it makes me think how little Dance and Germany have to do with each other. Baroque suites usually opened with an Allemande, rarely the highlight. Quite the opposite. More recently things have improved in Stuttgart, Dresden, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Wuppertal (Pina Bausch - not everyone's cup of tea).
That said, Savall has done some great recordings of German music. One of his best: