At any point during Friday evening's concert by Les Talens Lyriques, if one had closed one's eyes, one could have been transported from the Edwardian grandeur of the Town Hall to the Baroque splendour of Versailles.

Harpsichordist Christophe Rousset and his three colleagues (Gilone Gaubert-Jacques and Gabriel Grosbard on violins with Atsushi Sakai on viola da gamba) certainly gave us the perfect soundtrack for such a delicious fantasy.

A Marin Marais Suite showcased the sublime subtlety of the night's performances. The chosen movements stressed the introspective Marais, with exquisitely pointed ornamentation and a languid but controlled rhythmic ensemble, fascinatingly close to a romantic rubato.

Sakai thrilled in an Antoine Forqueray Suite, moving from sombre and luminously beautiful chords to will-o'-the-wisp virtuosity, in symbiotic partnership with Rousset.


Forqueray's final movement, titled La Couperin, was omitted; a pity when it would have been the ideal segue into a Suite from Couperin's Les Nations, with its gracefully scurrying Vivement pieces and spine-tingling pungencies when the mood turned to Gravement.

Couperin would close the concert, with his "grand trio" marking the arrival of the Italian composer Corelli into Parnassus. Movement by movement, each announced by Rousset, saw four musicians adept at melding Italianate robustness and French wit. Rameau was represented by the third suite of his Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts.

High points were Rousset's flying arpeggios, the whispered loveliness of Sakai's slow movement and a lively Finale that might have encouraged foot stomping in less salubrious surroundings.

What: Les Talens Lyriques

Where: Auckland Town Hall

When: Friday