Remember All the Mornings of the World, that sumptuously photographed, brilliantly acted, and thoroughly depressing art house movie about French gamba players? Remember how it helped bring the music for gamba and a host of gamba virtuosos to the attention of a much larger audience? Remember how the larger audience's attention wandered away after a few years and how this left all but a handful of gamba virtuosos adrift without recording contracts?
Remember Nima Ben David? She had hardly begun her recording career with a pair of sumptuously recorded, brilliantly played, and thoroughly engaging discs on the superlative Astrée label before the audience's attention wandered away and she was left high and dry. Now Ben David has returned with a pair of discs on the equally superlative Alpha label. The first, dedicated to the music of Tobias Hume, was sumptuous and brilliant, but unfortunately not all that engaging, as if Ben David's heart was not really in the eccentric music of the English Hume. The second, dedicated to the music of Couperin and Forqueray, is just as sumptuous and brilliant, but this time Ben David seems deeply engaged in the profound music of the French Couperin and Forqueray. As with Hume, her tone is lush and luxuriant, and her technique is almost impeccable. But what makes this disc special is Ben David's commitment to the music. The music's wit, its joy, its grief, and all its gradations in between are fully embodied in Ben David's performances and anyone, whether they already love the gamba, used to love the gamba or have not yet met the gamba, would enjoy her performances. Alpha's sound is warm but clear, rich but clean, transparent but overwhelmingly present.