The French baroque composer Jacques Aubert first came to my attention through a recording by Collegium Musicum 90 on Chandos. That earlier recording included his 5th suite for orchestra, the 4-violin concertos op. 17 no. 6, op. 17 no. 1, op. 26 no. 4, and his second suite. It was a nice little collection to introduce us to a composer, who for me, reminded me most of Jean-Marie Leclair.
My favorite concerto on that CD from 1995 was the op. 17, no. 6 in G minor. Like its other op. 17 concertos, it was wrought in 3 movements.
CM90 played it with careful precision. This newer recording by Les Cyclopes offers up the same concerto, along with more concertos from op. 17, 26. My favorite G minor isn’t the only overlap with the earlier recording from CM90.
The recording by Les Cyclopes featuring ex-MAK member Florian Deuter is, in every way, superior to the CM90 recording. The recorded sound is better, with faster tempi, more energy, and an overall more “musical” take on Aubert’s concerti. Deuter is joined by his co-director of Harmonie Universelle, Monica Waisman.
The real thing to think about then, is if Aubert’s music is worth the purchase price of the CD! Who is this Jacques Aubert?
His years more or less cover about the same time as Bach’s, so he’s a “late baroque” composer. He was born in Paris and knew the aforementioned Leclair. He appeared at the Concert Spirituel, the Paris Opera, and the 24 “Violons du Roy.”
What makes these concertos interesting, of course, is the scoring: they’re written for 4 violins and basso continuo.
What I like about them is both the lightness of scoring, and the somewhat formulaic harmonic progressions. I know, that doesn’t speak highly of my taste, perhaps, but Aubert most certainly borrowed this from the likes of Italians such as Vivaldi. Nothing makes me smile quite like a good descending 5th sequence with 7th chords (think Vivaldi’s opening Winter concerto).
That’s not to say Aubert was all formula and no invention. His music comes across as fresh, I believe, but it’s music that you will also take lightly, as it never gets too serious. I’d even go so far to say it holds back in a few ways that Leclairs, as a point of comparison, does not.
Les Cyclopes does an excellent job at revealing the artistry in the more gracious moments of the music, capturing the French goût or flavor. I think you’ll also enjoy the clean sound amid the more stormy moments, too. Organ and harpsichord are both used, performed by the ensemble’s two directors.