> FORQUEREY Pieces de Clavecin Rousset 4669762[KM]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Antoine FORQUERAY (1671-1745)
Pièces de Clavecin
Suite no. 1 in D minor
Suite no. 2 in G major
Suite no. 3 in D major
Suite no. 4 in G minor
Suite no. 5 in C minor
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord
Rec: 6-9 September 1999, Cité de la musique, Paris.
DECCA 466 976-2 2CD [148.11]


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Antoine Forqueray was a consummate composer of music for the viol, his instrument of predilection. In 1747, after his death, his son Jean-Baptiste published a set of his fatherís music in two scores: one for the viol, the other "set as pieces for the harpsichord" (including three movements composed by Forqueray fils, though it is possible that the son actually composed all of the music, and merely used his fatherís well-known name for marketing purposes). This recording presents the harpsichord version of these works, which appear as a model for harpsichord transcriptions of solo music, but also as works in their own right.

Since the original viol pieces were written for the solo bass viol, the transcriptions lean toward the heavier end of the harpsichord. This gives music that does not sound idiomatic to the instrument, since most harpsichord uses the left-hand as accompaniment rather than melodic parts. This is not the case in all of the pieces.

Christophe Rousset is a fine harpsichordist, but on this recording, he sounds as if he is lacking direction. His tempi often tend to be very fast, as if he were in a hurry to play this music, and this to the detriment of the melodic aspects of these pieces. In addition, I find the instrument used, the Hemsch harpsichord belonging to the Musée de la musique in Parisís Cité de la musique, particularly unsuited for these works. Its low range sounds very muddy and busy, especially with the excessive ornamentation which is common with this music; in the virtuoso final movement of the fifth suite, Jupiter, the music is almost hidden by the "noise" of the instrument, and Rousset seems almost lost in the breakneck speed of the piece, slipping away from the rhythm.

This harpsichord does sound excellent, however, in movements such as the Sarabande: La DíAubonne in the fourth suite. This movement sounds much more like a harpsichord piece, with its melody in the high range of the instrument, and all of this harpsichordís subtle sounds are heard in this piece.

Yet, the overall impression is one of overly busy music, with lots of ornaments detracting from the melody. Yes, this is how French harpsichord music was played in the 18th century, but I cannot be moved by this performance - it is just too distracting. The recording itself does not help - the harpsichord sounds flat and lacks relief.

Christophe Rousset is a fine harpsichordist, and this music is very interesting, but it seems that Rousset got too carried away with something beyond the music - the speed, the virtuosity for its own sake - to truly give a recording that moves. This is a sterile recording, with little life. While technically interesting, musically it is little more than a hint of what might have been.

Kirk McElhearn

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