After all the esoteric early music treats that the Edinburgh International Festival has served up in recent years, here was an event to top those memorable recitals. Harpsichordist Rousset, playing an 18th-century instrument from Edinburgh University's collection, was joined by two violins, lute and voila da gamba for a performance of music that Francois Couperin wrote to resolve an abstruse argument over the merits of the Italian and French styles.
The narrated soundtrack to a film in the composer's head, in which Corelli and Lully meet with the god Apollo on Mount Parnassus and collaborate on work that combines the best of both nations, was witty and not a little hippy. That this aural slideshow, with authentic instruments, was being performed in the era of powerpoint presentation would surely have pleased the composer, and it dovetailed perfectly with the exploration of technology throughout EIF 2013.
It was the two violinists, Gilone Gaubert-Jacques and Gabriel Grosbard, who hogged the limelight in the group's second half. Cast as Lully and Corelli, their pieces increased in complexity and virtuosity as the narrative unfolded.
Before the interval, Rousset explored Couperin's gift for portraiture in a book of pieces inspired by people. The Goermans/Taskin harpsichord is not a loud instrument, even when depicting a boisterous Adolescente, or a flirtatious dancer from the Opera, La Basque. But it is a very beautiful one, and Rousset and it were rewarded with a very attentive audience for a recital that was also a visual delight.