This disc is as interesting for the instrument as for Louis Couperin’s music. Colin Booth, exceptionally, is both a fine performer and an historically informed craftsman. He acquired the two-manual 1661 French-Italian Nicholas Celini harpsichord in 2012, restored it and then – inspired by its remarkably ‘long sustain’ – chose to record (on his own Soundboard label) pieces by Couperin.
The instrument, built in Narbonne, when tuned to 17th-century French pitch produces an exceptionally resonant sound, especially considering there is no keyboard coupler: the bass is strong and clear, and Booth’s timely use of the 4ft stop on the upper manual is enchanting. Many recordings of this repertoire have been made on 18th-century French instruments or modern copies. The Celini is a rare survivor from the composer’s own era.
Couperin’s music for harpsichord – some 127 pieces – survives in only two posthumous 17th-century manuscripts. From it Booth has chosen 30 examples, grouped mainly by key, including five unmeasured preludes (the expressive genre for which Couperin is best remembered). In these – the A major in particular – Booth the performer never disappoints: his interpretations are at once poetic, luxuriant and emotionally compelling. This recording also serves to remind us what a worthy precursor to his nephew François he was.
Booth treats us to a fascinating musical experience. For me, the instrument, music, performer and recording merge most sublimely in the Chaconne la Complaignante.