Wednesday, 27 February 2008

65. Jean-Phillipe Rameau - Pieces De Clavecin (1706- 47)


Title: Pieces de Clavecin
Performer: Christophe Rousset
Year: 1989
Length: 2 hours 10 minutes


Over two hours of Harpsichord can take their toll on you, but frankly this is a lovely recording. Rameau is just such an innovator and has such a sense of drama even in his Harpsichord pieces that it ends up being a quite impressive couple of hours. And the dullness of an harpsichord is nothing compared to the organ. Now I will soon have to review a 12 Cd collection of Couperin Harpsichord works and then we can talk again.

Rameau makes lovely use of what is really a pretty limited instrument, but he stretches it to its most exciting possibilities. From some lovely imitative pieces representing birds or a chicken to some fascinating experiments on harmony like Les Cyclopes (my favourite harpsichord piece at the moment) Rameau just never puts a foot wrong.

Of course some pieces will not be as impressive as the others, but in the end this is a beautiful recording and I could not recommend it more to anyone who is a fan of the harpsichord.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Along with François Couperin, Rameau is one of the two masters of the French school of harpsichord music in the 18th century. Both composers made a decisive break with the style of the first generation of harpsichordists, who confined their compositions to the relatively fixed mould of the classical suite. This reached its apogee in the first decade of the 18th century with successive collections of pieces by Louis Marchand, Gaspard Le Roux, Louis-Nicolas Clérambault, Jean-François Dandrieu, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Charles Dieupart and Nicolas Siret.

But Rameau and Couperin have a very different style anyway and Rameau cannot be considered the follower of the older composer. They seem not to have known one another (Couperin was one of the official court musicians while Rameau was still an unknown; fame would only come to him after Couperin’s death). Besides, Rameau published his first book of harpsichord pieces in 1706 while Couperin - who was fifteen years his senior - waited until 1713 before publishing his first “ordres”. Rameau’s pieces seem less intended to exploit the particular qualities of the harpsichord than Couperin’s; they place less importance on ornamentation and are more satisfying when played on the piano. When the respective size of their contributions to the harpsichord repertoire is taken into consideration, Rameau’s music perhaps shows more variety. It includes pieces in the pure tradition of the French suite, imitative (“Le rappel des oiseaux“, “La poule“) and character (“Les tendres plaintes“, “L'entretien des Muses“) pieces, and works of pure virtuosity which resemble Scarlatti ((“Les tourbillons,” “Les trois mains“), as well as pieces which reveal the experiments of a theorist and musical innovator (“L'Enharmonique“, “Les Cyclopes“) which had a marked influence on Daquin, Royer and Jacques Duphly. The suites are grouped in the traditional way, by key.

Les Cyclopes:


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