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Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Pièces de Clavecin
Allemande in A Minor
Allemande in E Minor
La Dauphine
La Livri
Les Tourbillons
La Triomphante
Gavotte Variée
La Joyeuse
Les Soupirs
Les Tendres plaints
La Poule
Le Lardon
Les Cyclopes
L’Entretien des Muses
Les Sauvages
Le Rappel des Oiseaux
Mordecai Shehori, piano
Recorded New York 1998

Mordacai Shehori, pupil of Mindru Katz, is a romantic pianist to his fingertips and Rameau might not be thought to be his métier. Clearly in terms of stylistic niceties this is true – he plays the piano not a harpsichord – and these are very far from authentic sounding performances in respect of sonority and aesthetic. Nevertheless in terms of fluency and drive, he imparts to these works a sense of intensity and animated life and importantly a sense also of their visual and pictorial richness that succeeds in transcending objections – such as there might be – to his incisive yet frequently sensitive romantic pianism.

This is indeed a point to which Shehori refers in his self-penned sleevenote; broadly summarized as acknowledging the essence of the period in which the music was written (which does not necessarily involve absorbing stylistic imperatives) whilst using the resources of a modern instrument, in his case a Steinway D of 1914, to transcribe – his word - the music in an acceptable way. In his own terms his buoyant and rhythmically alert pianism is an affectionate transcriber of Rameau’s pictorial dalliances. In the opening A Minor Allemande Shehori’s left hand voicings are nicely chiseled and communicative; there is a nobility here, a well-rounded and articulate humanity that hearkens back to the pianists of the Golden Age. He succeeds one Allemande with another – this time the E Minor receives a reading of stoic concentration, with more strong, lively but not abrasive left-hand pointing and some romanticized right-hand layering. Perhaps La Dauphine is rather pedal-fuelled – it was written for a royal wedding and from its flurrying drama Shehori evokes a proud scene.

I do however like the noble fluency he brings to La Livri and the sense of abruptness to Les Tourbillons – the latter means whirlwinds. The Gavotte Variée receives a reading of real filigree, dynamism and intricacy whilst L’Enharmonique brings a tremendous sense of life force with it as well as scintillating rhythmic fillips. If La Joyeuse summons up the memory of Landowska it’s a test that Shehori survives and one can but admire the evenness of the trills in the exotic sounding but actually rather domestic L’Egyptienne where Shehori throws in some left-hand accents and incremental gradations of tone and ends with a decisive full stop. Elsewhere he responds well to the delicacies and naughtiness embedded in these works whether the chicken imitation (not overdone, therefore more amusing) in La Poule or the saucy little caesurae in Le Lardon (The Satirist). He is ingenious in Les Cyclopes and manages to open up a small vista of philosophical depth in L’Entretien des Muses.

A most enjoyable disc; crisp, playful, rhythmically sure, above all communicative – both of the music’s richness and Shehori’s own obvious enjoyment and exploration of it.

Jonathan Woolf

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