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Antoine FORQUERAY (1671/2 - 1745)
Pièces de Viole -Pièces de Clavecin (1745)

Suite #1: Allemande La Laborde [5:04]; La Portuguaise [3.20]
Suite #2: Chaconne - La Buisson [4.36]
Suite #3: La Régente [5.44]; La Ferrand [4.24]
Suite #5: Jupiter [4.34]
Jay Bernfeld, viola da gamba ; Skip Sempé, harpsichord
Suite #1: La Cottin [3.23]; La Forqueray [2.44]; La Couperin [3.22]
Suite #2: La Leclair [1.45]
Suite #4: La Marella [2.48]; Sarabande La díAubonne [4.18]
Suite #5: La Rameau [3.39]
Skip Sempé, harpsichord solo
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Photos of artists.
Recorded Temple St. Marcel, Paris, France; May 1991.
DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 82876601652 [50.26]

Comparison Recording:
Forqueray, Harpsichord Suites, Luc Beauséjour Naxos 8.553717; 8.553407

The Beauséjour series on Naxos has almost convinced me, and Iím sure a good many others, that Forqueray was a major composer. Those disks are exemplary in their grace and elegance in the French style with fluid phrases and liquid ornamentation and twangy, tenor harpsichord sound. The Suites were originally written for viol, but were also published as transcribed for solo harpsichord.

In the disk at hand, the choice of viola da gamba with harpsichord is unfortunate. In the accompanied pieces, the harpsichord sound is in such a different register than the gamba, that rather than supporting the instrument it sounds more like an annoying rattle which makes it difficult to hear the gamba. More stereo separation would have helped here, to distinguish the two instruments. The most successful of the accompanied pieces is the Chaconne: La Buisson, which forms the finale of Suite #2. Here the two instruments play more together, since anybodyís chaconne is really Spanish music, but still one wishes the harpsichord would stop playing, as it tends to distract the attention rather than support the instrument.

The music comes through more clearly in Sempéís solo harpsichord performances. Leonhardt himself has recorded French harpsichord music, but to my taste not successfully, and I donít in general care for the way his student, Mr. Sempé, plays it either. He rushes through La Leclair, throwing handfuls of notes at us in apparent carelessness, whereas with Beauséjour the ornamentation is always organic to the phrase. La Rameau and La Marella are more sympathetically performed by Sempé, but the quality of the performance here focuses attention on the recording, which leans toward thinness and artificial brightness compared to Beauséjourís natural close sound. Just to show the failure of generalisations, Sempé gives us a beautiful performance of the Sarabande La díAubonne, surpassing Beauséjour in this one piece only. Whether Sempé can be said to play this music in the Dutch or Swiss manner, mostly he does not play it in what I perceive as the French manner, and this music is not substantial enough to survive this. Nor am I being a regional chauvinist, as I applaud Wanda Landowska, Anton Heiller and Fernando Valenti as being among the finest interpreters of French harpsichord music. I would like to hear Mr. Bernfeld play a solo or duo recital without harpsichord, and I would like to hear Mr. Sempé play some harpsichord music in the North European style, but I donít recommend this disk except to those who would want to own everything by Forqueray, or who admire Leonhardtís cool approach to French repertoire.

Paul Shoemaker

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