Jacquet de la Guerre Harpsichord Works
Elisabeth Jacquet (Couperin’s senior by three years) was a remarkable girl. A member of a family of musicians, at the age of only five she attracted the benevolent attention of Louis XIV by her harpsichord playing, and subsequently was taken under the wing of his favourite, Mme de Montespan. At 18 she married the organist Marin de la Guerre and became famous for the concerts she gave at her home, in which her powers of improvisation were greatly admired. She wrote trio sonatas, an opera (the first one by a woman to be produced in France), violin sonatas that include double-stopping, and two books of Cantates francaises on Old Testament subjects. Her first book of harpsichord pieces was published as early as 1687 – even before Lebegue’s – and contains in its four suites, apart from partly unmeasured Louis Couperin-like preludes, sequences of dances that have considerable individuality and feeling for expressive harmony, a very unusual Tocade (to open the F major Suite) and a couple of chaconnes. Twenty years later, after a tragic series of family deaths, she produced two more harpsichord suites ‘that can be played on the violin.’
All this music is performed with flair, vitality, panache and character by the Swedish-born harpsichordist Carole Cerasi (who teaches at the Menuhin and Guildhall schools). If this is, as I believe, her first disc, I am delighted to roll out the red carpet for her. Her playing on a rich-toned Ruckers instrument (originally single-manual but with a ravalement to two manuals by Hemsch in 1763) is deeply impressive and rewarding, and a model of clarity. A disc very highly recommended on all counts.'