Bassorum Vox

Michel Corrette: Les Délices de la Solitude

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Michel Corrette was a composer and teacher popular in Paris in the middle of the 18th century. He held musicales in his home, was attuned to the latest Italian trends, and apparently composed the first chamber works for cello published in France. Baroque cellist Seung-Yeon Lee and annotator Thomas Jakobi both profess mystification in their separate booklet notes as to why this collection of six sonatas for cello and continuo should have been entitled Les Délices de la Solitude, or The Delights of Solitude. It's true that these sonatas, a mix of Italian-style solo sonata movements and French dances, carry little of the representational or programmatic aspect of Couperin or Rameau. But it seems reasonable to suggest that the title might have referred back to the solitary, somewhat mystical flavor that had been for some decades attached to the gamba and have represented an attempt by Corrette to connect his music with that tradition. Indeed, the music is generally more varied and generally more serious than that of Boismortier and the other teacher/composers of the period. The fifth sonata features a full-scale battle piece, and each of the six sonatas has its own emotional flavor. If this was indeed Corrette's intent, the full-scale continuo group -- another cello, theorbo or Baroque guitar, and harpsichord -- is perhaps a bit large for what was music on an intimate scale. But Lee's performances themselves, with elegant ornamentation and even a short improvised passage, are both careful and relaxed; despite a program consisting of a set of works that wouldn't have been played all together in the 18th century, this international group of musicians (they are Korean, Japanese, and Spanish) find new interest at every turn. The sound from Germany's Coviello Classics label, recorded in a church, is over-resonant, but the strength of Lee's playing marks this as a good choice for music by a still little-known late Baroque composer.

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