LOUIS COUPERIN: Six Suites; Pavanne – Christophe Rousset, harpsichord – Aparté “Flores de música” – keyboard music by JUAN CABANILLES – Elisabeth Wright, harpsichord – Musica Ficta

by | Jun 28, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

LOUIS COUPERIN: Six Suites; Pavanne – Christophe Rousset, harpsichord – Aparté AP006, 55:46 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) *****:
“Flores de música” (17th century Spanish keyboard music by JUAN CABANILLES and from the collections of Antonio Martin y Coll) – Elisabeth Wright, harpsichord – Musica Ficta Recordings MF 006, 55.3 min. [www.musicafictaweb.com] *****:
A pair of discs to delight collectors who don’t subscribe to Sir Thomas Beecham’s too-graphic and inaccurate description of what harpsichords sound like.  Even if you already have some harpsichord albums in your collection, chances are you needn’t worry about duplications with either of these CDs. Louis was the uncle of the more famous Francois Couperin, and Rousset – one of the best of the current generation of harpsichordists – has assembled his various dance movements for the instrument into six suites ranging from five to nine movements.
The movements include plenty of Courantes, Sarabandes, Gigues, Chaconnes, Passacailles, Gaillardes, and Allemandes, as expected.  They are most expressive and varied, and sound like they have been suites in the general repertory for centuries, although they are being heard here in their present form for the first time. Louis sounds like a precursor of not only Francois but also the great Jean-Baptiste Lully. Harpsichordist Rousset also has a career as a conductor, and in harpsichord works, instrumental and operatic works of the period shows himself to have a strong passion for the Baroque aesthetic. This music hasn’t been widely heard before because much of it was lost. Musicians at the time were not expected to play all the movements by a single composer, but to make a choice, and could include pieces by other composers if they wished. The finest pieces by Louis Couperin were selected, arranged so there was sensible organization – not having three Courantes in succession, for example. The scores show an elegant cursive style, with elaborate slurring. Aside from the fugal sections, they are written entirely in semibreves, giving the page an unusually blank appearance. Louis died at only age 35, and was remembered as a skilled harmonist. In 1680 a writer described the style of Louis Couperin as “full of chords and enriched with fine dissonances, with structural niceties and with imitation.” The harpsichord used in the recordings – made in Neuchatel, Switzerland – dates from 1658.
Elisabeth Wright is a noted soloist, chamber musician and expert on basso continuo improvisation. She studied with Gustav Leonhardt in Amsterdam and regularly performs with Musican Ficta, a Columbian ensemble dedicated to Spanish and Latin American Baroque vocal and instrumental repertory.  This new CD delves into some fascinating 17th century Spanish keyboard music from the collections of a Franciscan friar – Antonio Martin y Coll, plus selected work by the Valencian organist-compoeter Juan Cabanilles.  The keyboard music of the 17th century in Spain is extremely virtuosic and full of unexpected turns and twists, offering a rich harmonic melodic language that can be discovered thru repeated listenings.
One may not be informed that the Spanish empire of the 16th century was called “Las Espanas” (The Spains) due to the vast area belonging to the Spanish Crown at that time, which included all of the Iberian peninsula, the south of Italy, Sicilty, Sardinia, Burgundy, Luxembourg, Flancers, the Canary Islands, some viceroyalties in the American continent, and even the Philippines. The main social unifying element was the Catholic religion. The dance character is vital in most of these pieces – Cervantes himself had said “there is no Spanish woman that would leave her mother’s womb without being a dancer.”
In addition to the varied works by Cabanilles here, the other main inspiration for the recording was the series of keyboard compilations gather by the Franciscan Friar Antonio Martin y Coll, who was organist at Alcala and Madrid.  Many of the works are anonymous, but preserve virtues of the 17th century Iberian keyboard school. A few of the selections have the added support of Baroque guitar and percussion. Three different harpsichord were used in the recording, all copies of original 17th and 18th century instruments from Flanders, Germany and Italy.
— John Sunier

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