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Rebel Enlivens French Baroque Works

February 07, 1996|HERBERT GLASS

A little French Baroque music goes a long way, and on Monday in the Viennese Room of the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena there was a lot of it. Fortunately, the performers of this Chamber Music in Historic Sites event were the expert stylists of Ensemble Rebel, which takes its name from Jean-Fery Rebel (1667-1747), whose works figured prominently on the agenda.

The Rebels are violinists Jorg-Michael Schwarz and Karen Marie Marmer, gambist Gail Ann Schroeder and harpsichordist Pieter Dirksen: a tightly knit quartet that attacks its repertory with enlivening scholarship and rhythmic vitality. A notable attribute of the ensemble's playing is its centered intonation, achieved by much between-works tuning of the testy antique instruments employed.

And while these qualities could not make compelling listening of an entire evening of triplet and dotted-rhythm-obsessed dance scores, created to accompany the dinners, promenades, state receptions and even ablutions of music-mad Louis XIV, they did illuminate the best of it.

A fiery Sonata in G minor by Francois Couperin took its cue as much from earthy Italian influences as from courtly French practices. A pair of stately harpsichord solos by Gaspard LeRoux proved nourishing, and the alternatingly somber and lightheaded "Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully," by Rebel himself and French to the core, clearly had a higher purpose than to provide background noise for royal conversation.

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