Bennington Baroque presents works by two French composers

BENNINGTON — Early Music America has declared March Early Music Month. In response, and in celebration of the 350th anniversary of the birth of Fran ois Couperin Le Grand in 1668, Bennington Baroque will present a concert at The Old First Church, Bennington, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 17. Included will be music by Couperin and by his contemporary, Marin Marais. Admission is pay what you will.

Both Couperin and Marais were active at the court of Louis XIV, and during the regency of Philippe d'Orl ans after the king's death in 1715. Their music is cast in the elegantly French tradition they had inherited from Lully, but partakes as well of the "modern" Italian style much in vogue among the Parisian nobility. As Sebastien de Brossard asserted in his 1703 Dictionaire, Italian sonatas and cantatas had nearly overrun Paris in the early years of the new century.

Couperin's four volumes of keyboard suites are much beloved by harpsichordists, and include not only dances, but also musical portraits of aristocratic personalities at Versailles and in Paris. His chamber music, published in the Concerts Royaux, was performed before the king in the last years of his life. Viol players are similarly devoted to Marais' music for their instrument, then much preferred to the cello in France. Marais was the subject of a 1991 film, "Tous les matins du monde" ("All the Mornings of the World").

Bennington Baroque plays on copies of instruments of the period, which undeniably serve this music better than their modern equivalents. Moreover, a space like that of Old First provides an acoustic especially well suited to this music and these instruments. Performers include Emily Hale (baroque violin), Andr Laurent O'Neil (viola da gamba) and Sandra Mangsen (harpsichord).

The ensemble was founded by harpsichordist Sandra Mangsen shortly after she moved to the area in 2011. Bennington Baroque presents three or four concerts each season, focusing on music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The group's next concert will be presented by a Boston group, Renaissonics, at the Bennington Museum on May 27, and will focus on music of the renaissance and early baroque periods. See


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