Royer Harpsichord Works
It is now some 12 years since William Christie made an excellent disc of Pancrace Royer's only published collection of harpsichord pieces (1746); and it was reissued recently on CD. Royer was a more prominent figure in French musical life than the comparative unfamiliarity of his name nowadays would suggest. He was an imaginative director of the Concert Spirituel, leader for several years of the Opera orchestra, and a successful composer for the stage, as well. His ballet-heroique, Zaide (1739) was especially popular and was still being performed in the 1760s. La Chasse de Zaide is the composer's own harpsichord arrangement of a ''symphonie'' in the opera and, in this new recital, Christophe Rousset appends it to the pieces of the 1746 publication. That, too, incidently contains a number of transcriptions by the composer of pieces from earlier stage works.
Anyone familiar with Rousset's
The beautifully recorded, fine sounding harpsichord is a 1751 instrument by the Parisian maker, Hemsch. It may once have belonged to Rameau's patron La Poupliniere and is the selfsame harpsichord on which Rousset recorded Rameau's Pieces de clavecin of 1724 and 1728. Since both Rousset and Christie turn in comparably effective performances of Royer's harpsichord pieces choosing between them may be difficult. I like Christie's more spacious, more melancholy ''La Sensible'', for instance, but prefer Rousset's more demonstrative ''Le Vertigo''. Christie is bolder in his ornaments (''La Zaide''), while Rousset observes a stricter code of practice. Rousset favours a tuning which approaches equal temperament while Christie's meaner tone, if I can so put it has a delicious tang evoking a picture of a somewhat untended instrument echoing through the windows of an old French manoir of an evening in late summer. The choice is yours—but neither is likely to disappoint. A warm welcome to the newcomer.'