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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Johann Helmich ROMAN (1694-1758)
Twelve Suites for Harpsichord

Suite I in E flat major
Suite II in D major
Suite III in G major
Suite IV in D major
Suite V in G minor
Suite VI in B flat major
Suite VII in F major
Suite VIII in A major
Suite IX in D minor
Suite X in D major
Suite XI in F minor
Suite XII in E minor
Joseph Payne, harpsichord
Rec: January, February 1994, Forde Estate, Boston.
BIS CD-669/670 [2CDs: 138.44]

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Johan Helmich Roman is said to be "the father of Swedish music", and "the Swedish Handel". His music is seen as the foundation of Swedish classical music. Well-known for his Drottingholmsmusiken, he also wrote hundreds of other works, including some 120 instrumental works and 200 vocal works. This recording contains 12 suites for harpsichord, which, like most of his music, was not published during his lifetime.

Roman's harpsichord suites lie on the border between the older, baroque tradition of suites built around (often-binary) dance movements, and the newer tradition of the sonata. While melodically and structurally, much of this music owes its influences to baroque forms, especially the style galant of Versailles, one can easily see his leaning toward the future, with the way the movements are notated - Suite VII, for example, is in three movements: Moderato, Vivace, and Allegro.

Yet Roman is no Handel; in fact, his music is predictable and relatively superficial. By avoiding the contrapuntal structures of the baroque, he presents somewhat simple music that neither inspires nor pleases. Joseph Payne performs this music very well, with a great deal of feeling and energy, yet this recording remains disappointing. The themes and melodies all sound familiar, somewhat sophomoric; while some of the music is technically demanding, much of it sounds relatively simple.

Joseph Payne, in his liner notes, says, "There is brilliance and originality in this music…" Perhaps there is simply no accounting for taste.

This is the first of Payne's recordings for BIS that has disappointed me - all of his other harpsichord recordings for the label, part of his "comprehensive survey … of three centuries of harpsichord literature" have been interesting, exciting, and even masterpieces. But, no matter how many times I listen to this set, it just doesn't do anything for me.


Kirk McElhearn


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