“Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place” – Paul Cienniwa – Whaling City Sound

by | Jul 17, 2012 | Classical CD Reviews

“Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place” – [PlayList follows] Paul Cienniwa – Whaling City Sound WCS 059, 66:00 [Distr. by Allegro] (5/8/12) ****:
This is a beautifully-recorded program of 16 more meditative and less familiar pieces for the harpsichord, which keyboardist Cienniwa envisions as being at the threshold between the ordinary and the spiritual—what he calls A Thin Place. His intent was to elevate the selections from the musical to a more spiritual place, and he made a special effort to favor pieces in major keys instead of minor, and avoided the more elegiac aspects.
Composers represented include Bach, Byrd, Couperin, Forqueray, Froberger, Rameau, Sweelinck and Bell. Mr. Cienniwa is organist, conductor and music director of Boston’s First Church and has a Dr. of Music Arts degree from Yale. The harpsichord is an authentic copy built in 1966 by the famed harpsichord builder William Dowd, and the recording was carefully miced with a pair of Schoeps mics and recorded directly to 96K/24bit with no gimmicks. The venue was an acoustically appropriate church in Massachusetts.
The various pieces seem to fit together like a glove even though they come from greatly disparate composers; I was struck by a couple of them and might be looking up the sheet music online to play on my harpsichord. The sonics are very precise and clean, not exaggerated as in some harpsichord recordings or annoying in the amount of mechanical noise transmitted. My only slight disappointment was that since the sonics are so exceptional it cannot be heard at the original 96K/24bit on a DVD instead of a standard CD.
1. Premier prelude for harpsichord in C major (L’Art de toucher le clavecin)  (1:38) Composer  François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
2. Passacaille for harpsichord in C major (Pieces de clavecin, No. 27)  (6:45) Common Name  Passacaille For Harpsichord    Composer  Louis Couperin (circa 1626 – 1661)
3. La Silva (from Pieces de viole, Premier Divertissement)  (6:09) Composer  Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (1699 – 1782)
4. Quatrieme prelude for harpsichord in F minor (L’art de toucher le clavecin)  (2:06) Composer  François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
5. Sonata arranged for keyboard in D minor (after BWV 1003, possibly by J.G. Muthel), BWV 964 (BC L184)  (4:18) Catalog No.  BWV 1003 / BWV 964    Composer  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
6. Cinquieme prelude for harpsichord in A major (L’art de toucher le clavecin)  (3:11) Composer  François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
7. Allemande for harpsichord in A minor (Nouvelles suites)  (7:19) Common Name  Allemande For Harpsichord    Composer  Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764)
8. Partita for harpsichord No. 1, Op. 97  (2:48) Common Name  Partita For Harpsichord    Composer  Larry Bell (1952 – )
9. O lux beata trinitas, chorale variations for organ (attributed)  (4:05) Composer  Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562 – 1621)
10. Ave verum corpus (also anthem: “O Lord, God of Israel”), motet for 4 voices (SATB)  (3:29) Common Name  O Lord, God Of Israel, Ave Verum Corpus Also Anthem For 4 Voices    Composer  William Byrd (Composer) (1543 – 1623)
11. Chaconne ou Passacaille, for harpsichord (Pieces de clavecin, No. 96)  (3:49) Composer  Louis Couperin (circa 1626 – 1661)
12. Three-Part Invention (Sinfonia), for keyboard No. 11 in G minor, BWV 797 (BC L52)  (2:32) Common Name  Three Part Invention Sinfonia For Keyboard    Catalog No.  BWV 797    Composer  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)
13. La Du Vaucel (from Pieces de viole, Troisieme Divertissement)  (5:19) Composer  Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (1699 – 1782)
14. Second prelude for harpsichord in D minor (L’Art de toucher le clavecin)  (1:55) Composer  François Couperin (1668 – 1733)
15. Allamand for keyboard in D minor, FbWV 635  (4:11) Catalog No.  FBWV 635    Composer  Johann Jacob Froberger (1616 – 1667)
16. Les Soupirs, for harpischord in D major (Pieces de clavecin avec une methode)  (6:57) Composer  Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764)
—John Sunier

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