Harpsichord recital

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Harpsichord recital

  • Pièces de clavecin, Musette en rondeau
  • Pièces de clavecin, Tambourin
  • Pièces de clavecin, La poule
  • Pièces de clavecin, L'enharmonique
  • Premier livre de pièces de clavecin, Le Coucou
  • (4) Preludes, No. 2 in G, MBXX/2
  • (The) Bells
  • Noels' Galliard
  • Harpsichord Works V, ~, La Pièmontoise 102
  • Harpsichord Works II, ~, Chaconne 55
  • Livres de clavecin, Book 2, 6th Ordre (B flat), Les baricades mistérieuses
  • Sonatas for Keyboard Nos. 1-555
  • (8) Sonatas or Lessons, G
  • (8) Suites for Keyboard, Set I, Suite No. 5 in E, HWV430
  • (12) Sonate di gravicembalo, Sonata in A, Toccata
  • Sonata for Piano No. 11, Rondo alla turca
  • Fantasia

Robert Aldwinckle is an accomplished player, well known beyond early-music circles. He offers here a potpourri of familiar harpsichord pieces from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, intended as an introduction, which he performs on two replica instruments built by John Horniblow. The choice of repertoire is a little surprising in its omissions (not a note of Frescobaldi, Froberger, Purcell or the Bachs) and its ordering (neither chronological nor strictly ordered by nationality), but it is confidently performed.
He begins with a hefty dose of Rameau: three rustic pieces de caractere (including the ubiquitous La poule) and the ingenious L'enharmonique. Listeners will be dismayed by the closeness of the microphones, which distort and overwhelm the instrument's tone with the noise of its action. Daquin's encore piece, Le coucou follows. A switch from the French to the Venetian instrument signals a group of virginal pieces. The Gibbons Prelude shows off the instrument's quill stop while Byrd's The Bells merely echoes the repetitiousness of the Daquin rondo. Aldwinckle concludes his 'English set' with a galliard by Holborne (who was not so much a keyboard exponent as a composer of madrigals and consorts) and consigns the rest of the century's keyboard music to oblivion.
Transported cross-channel we are treated to the Couperins; it is a little puzzling that while Francois—not Louis—was called ''Couperin le Grand'', he is accorded only one piece, his uncle two. A chaconne by Louis is a must, La Piemontoise less important; likewise Francois's Les baricades misterieuses is certainly one of everyone's favourites. At this point, the Rameau pieces might have been included—or for that matter familiar pieces by d'Anglebert, Duphly or Balbastre rather than so many of Rameau's. Instead, Aldwinckle returns to the Venetian copy for the astonishing Cat's fugue of Domenico Scarlatti which, unfortunately, is so closely miked that the music is almost obscured by the clatter of the action. A snippet of Arne (the gigue from a Sonata in G) follows, played on the French copy.
Handel's Harmonious Blacksmith, with its virtuoso air and variations comes next, followed by Paradis's misnamed toccata (really the second movement of his sixth sonata di gravicembalo). He concludes with two works borrowed from the fortepiano which inevitably suffer from the harpsichord's limitations of articulation and dynamics: Mozart's Rondo alla turca (oh, for a Janissary stop!) and Fantasia in D minor.
Throughout, Aldwinckle demonstrates a fluent and clean technique yet when individual pieces are compared with other interpretations his want shape and nuance. Still, many will be delighted to find so many of the harpsichord 'classics' gathered together on a single budget-price Compact Disc.'

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