RAMEAU Pièces de Clavecin, Volume 2
As with its predecessor (9/14), the second of four projected releases in this superbly engineered download-only Rameau cycle features a clear, dulcet sounding 1636 Ruckers model harpsichord that befits Steven Devine’s meticulous technique and thoughtful musicianship in the two 1731 Pièces de clavecin suites. His syncopated notes inégales treatment of the A minor Allemande and Courante differs from Mahan Esfahani’s harder-hitting interpretation (Hyperion), while he favours a steadier, more grounded Sarabande. Devine’s crisp and clipped ‘Les trois mains’ convinces less than Noëlle Spieth’s suaver legato/detaché phrasing (Eloquentia) but his simplicity and breadth in the concluding Gavotte and Doubles complements Esfahani’s faster, more ornamented traversal, as does the lilting deliberation of ‘Fanfarinette’.
Esfahani sees ‘Les Tricotets’ as an upbeat toccata at odds with Devine’s agogic rumination. If Devine explores the hen-clucking character of ‘La Poule’ less aggressively than in Jory Vinikour’s deliciously brow-beating recording, his surprising and lovely changes of registration and rare B section repeat reward no less. ‘Les Triolets’ again illuminates the contrast between Devine’s elegantly steady notes inégales approach and Esfahani’s gentle rhapsodising. As much as I like Devine’s subtle changes of touch in the repeats of ‘Les Sauvages’, I prefer Esfahani’s more incisive linear projection. The assiduous mood shifts and amazing harmonic tension of ‘L’Enharmonique’ benefit from Devine’s expansive eloquence and B section repeat, as he stretches out the music to nearly nine blissful minutes. In sum, Vol 2 satisfies more consistently than Vol 1, and I’m curious to hear how the cycle’s next instalments will play out. Devine provides his own informative, well written annotations, available in PDF format.