RAMEAU: Pieces de clavecin en concerts – Aapo Häkkinen, harpsichord/ Petri Tapio Mattson, violin/ Mikko Perkola, viola da gamba – Alba multichannel SACD 318, 66:25 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
Rameau’s compositional stages included early keyboard works, followed by operas not started until the age of 50 (!), taking a break close to age 60 in order to create the five books of Pieces de clavecin en concerts, which really refer to pieces done in ensemble as opposed to solo harpsichord. These are not Italianate at all, but inundated with a French sensibility where the harpsichord is the be-all and end-all of the proceedings, the accompanying violin and viola da gamba (or flute and second violin, which the composer provided for) ornate and involved yet still not central. This was a natural progression for the composer who had already set a number of solo harpsichord pieces according to descriptive form where the music follows its own natural path in terms of the basic dances that he uses as a foundation.
These sets are the only chamber music Rameau was ever to compose, but what sets they are! The music is again descriptive, but this time with the added bonus of naming them after people as well (Forqueray, Marias, Rameau), and despite the florid nature of the ornamentation and intricate filigreed passages that surround the main line the splendid melodic presentation holds sway above all else, capturing the ears of every listener exposed to these wonders, and easily making a case for itself. These gems belong in the collection of any listener worth his or her salt.
There are not too many recording of all five sets; this one, the second done in SACD, is splendid in all ways, using the originally conceived instrumentation and done in a manner that fully takes advantages of the recorded sound. I mentioned in another review that “you might be able to find the Denon if you search, and it makes use of a more standard trio sonata ensemble by adding a Baroque flute”—a 1991 disc with Chiyoko Arita, Natsumi Wakamatsu, Masahiro Arita, and Wieland Kuijken. But the sound on this disc tops them all, and the performances are very fine indeed. However I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other SACD, that of Trevor Pinnock, Rachel Podger, and James Manson on Channel Classics which has an amazing display of colors. Nevertheless, this one is enthusiastically encouraged on all!
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