The Pacific Baroque Festival in Victoria is bringing a taste of Le Grand Siècle to Parksville with a concert at Knox United Church on Saturday, Feb. 10.
The concert will be the third the festival has brought to Parksville, this year with an emphasis on celebrating the 350th anniversary of François Couperin who transformed French music during the reign of Louis XIV.
To that end, the Parksville concert looks to bring chamber music that might have been played for a more intimate audience in the king’s bedchamber.
“To provide better context, the idea is for people to get an experience of listening to these small ensembles in a space that would be relatively similar in size to what it would be performed in in its day,” said Brian Groos, the festival’s manager. Chamber music group La Modestine will perform at Knox, which includes Linda Melsted on baroque violin, Natalie Mackie on viola de gamba, Michael Jarvis on harpsichord, and the festival’s artistic director, Marc Destrubé, on baroque violin. “We will in fact play a suite by Marin Marais that was played to the Sun King as he prepared for bed,” said Destrubé.
A fan of baroque music for its variety of musical forms and its attitude of experimentation (which he likens to that of early jazz musicians), Destrubé said Couperin is important because he reconciled the influence of French and Italian musical styles at the French court.
“Some decades after Jean-Baptiste Lully had established a French style of music at the court, largely based on his invention of the ‘opera-ballet’ with its succession of dances and arias, the influence of Italian music and musicians on French musical style became increasingly important, which led to heated debates between the ‘Lullistes’ and the ‘Ramistes’ (fans of the more adventurous Jean-Philippe Rameau),” Destrubé explained.
“Couperin, the greatest among a family of musicians, wished to calm the debate and reconcile the two styles; the result was music of sublime beauty that had an important influence on many later composers, including J.S. Bach, Brahms, Richard Strauss and Ravel.”
Another level of context audiences will get comes from the musicians using period instruments, said Destrubé. This is especially important when it comes to understanding and playing baroque music, he said. “Unlike in later music, there is little information about how to play the music in the written notes, so that there is a great deal of freedom of interpretation, along with the necessity of being as well-informed as possible about performance practices of the time,” he said.
“In addition, we use the instruments as they were at the time, which gives us a lot of insight into how the music might have sounded.”
Asked what audiences will hear at Knox, Destrubé said, “Audiences will enjoy hearing a variety of dance movements, the unique sounds of period instruments with their somewhat gritty-sounding gut strings, and the grace, elegance, and lace-like ornamentation which typify music of this period.
“We would hope that our music and music-making might transport the audience into another world, either of their own making, or imagining themselves in a different time and place.”
The baroque performance at Knox United Church (345 Pym St., Parksville), called The King’s Radio, takes place Saturday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. They can be purchased at Mulberry Bush book stores in Parksville and Qualicum Beach, as well as online at www.pacbaroque.com.