Modern ensembles have always tended to shy away from the French baroque repertory—Lully, Couperin and Rameau for example—because of its rarified preciosity and the intricacy of the performing lore. Only harpsichordists, privy to French ornamentation practices, have made it their speciality. With familiarity, much of the mystique has now dissolved. But the music remains to a certain extent the provenance of the specialist so that even ensembles known, along with their conductors, for their stylish performances of Italian and German baroque music, stumble when they attempt the French.
The English Baroque Soloists under John Eliot Gardiner offer here orchestrated interpretations of the most extended and quasi-dramatic of Francois Couperin's uniquely conceived chamber music. The pieces within the Apotheose works, descriptively titled and programmatic, lend themselves to varied instrumentation. The Concert "Dans le Gout Theatrical", published in a score of two and three parts, is transcribed here for larger forces by Peter Holman, who puts forward the novel notion—ostensibly because of the length of the work, the exceptional presence of an ouverture and the absence of dances associated with chamber music (allemandes, courantes, etc.)— that it may be a "domestic version" of a hypothetical lost stage work, of which we otherwise have none from Couperin.