- (Albert-Jan Roelofs)
- Format: CD
In 1704 (or maybe slightly earlier) a set of harpsichord pieces was published, composed by Louis-Nicolas Clérambault. Born in 1676, he was recognised as one of Paris' leading musicians of his time. He became famous for his sonates, cantates and pièces d'orgue. Though less often performed nowadays, his harpsichord pieces show his great ability to write elegantly embellished, expressive melodies. The first set of pieces on this CD, in C-major, opens with a 'Prélude non mesuré' in the style of his great predecessors, Louis Couperin and Henry d'Anglebert. The following pieces in this suite are rather conventional and academic in their use of the traditional dance forms and harmonic progression. In the doubles of the 'Allemande' and 'Gavotte' we recognize the 17th century way of elaborating a dance movement with an adorned variation. Francois Couperin, the second composer on this CD, had a rather unconventional approach in combining harpsichord pieces into sets, not naming them 'Suite' but calling them 'Ordre'. Furthermore, the regular dance forms became a pattern, used to paint, as it were, a portrait in music of a person, an event or whatever else occurred to his creative mind. In his '17th Ordre' (published in his 3rd book of harpsichord pieces, 1722) he sets to music a fine portrait of his great contemporary viola da gamba player Antoine Forqueray. In 'La Suberbe', Couperin makes use of the gravity of the ancient allemande to give shape to the nobleness that Forqueray revealed in his playing. One recognises also the imitative motives and so called fake polyphony (a two-part writing in broken chords) that Forqueray obviously would have brought to life in his playing. The key is e-minor, especially expressive in the tuning used in this recording, the temperament ordinaire. This noble piece is followed by a pretty piece in which Couperin evokes 'Les Petits Moulins à vent'. Usually this title is interpreted as a reference to the Parisian windmills. The lightness of the piece and the small, repeated musical motives makes one rather think of the small paper windmills on top of wooden sticks that bring great amusement to children. One can easily imagine the repeated blowing in order to keep the small moulins moving. From time to time they nearly stop, just to be blown in action again. The following rondeau 'Timbres' could be interpreted as a musical painting of little chimes. One can employ the art of playing inégale to give shape most effectively to the irregular sounding bells. A rather old-fashioned 'Courante' follows to give way to 'Les Petites Crémières de Bagnolet'. It is not difficult to hear in the melodic lines the chattering among milkmaids in the Parisian suburb of Bagnolet. The next composer on this CD, Jacques Duphly, of whom little is known, published his harpsichord works in four books. A mixture of conventional musical portraits and dance forms can be found next to experiments in new keyboard techniques that emerged in the later 18th century. In 'La Forqueray' (from his 3rd book, 1758) we find a nice, but rather old-fashioned portrait of the earlier mentioned Antoine Forqueray, including the imitative melodic fragments and fake polyphony. The key (f-minor) is very expressive! On the other hand, in the Chaconne we find Duphly exploiting all kinds of new-fashioned keyboard techniques such as broken chords over several octaves and so called Alberti-basses. His 1st, 2nd and 4th book contain only pieces for harpsichord solo. Also, in his 3rd book he published 6 pieces for harpsichord accompanied by violin. This genre emerged from the beginning of the 18th century as a medium to combine musical instruments in a chamber music setting, most probably with the aim to encourage musical practice in domestic setting. In his 3 pieces in F-major, Duphly exploits two ways of writing accompanied harpsichord music: in the 'Ouverture' (and also in the refrain of 'La DeMay') the violin plays in unison with the harpsichord, thus enhancing the expressiveness of the harpsichord tone. In the other pieces, Duphly writes an obligato part for the violin, achieving a very attractive musical dialogue.