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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Jacques DUPHLY (1715-1789) Harpsichord Works
La de Vaucanson
La Forqueray
La de Drummond
La Victoire
La Félix
La de Redemond
La Pothouin
Jos van Immerseel (harpsichord)
Recorded October 1974, no location given ADD
Joseph Bodin de BOISMORTIER (1689-1755) Harpsichord Works

La Caverneuse
La Marguillère
La Transalpine
La Valétudinaire
La Décharnée
Laurence Boulay (harpsichord)
Recorded December 1976, no location given ADD
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 60372 2 [58:04]


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Although separated by a generation both the composers featured on this Apex release were members of the French harpsichord school known as ‘Les Clavecinistes’. Working in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Les Clavecinistes flourished and achieved a refinement of keyboard writing which was constantly admired and often imitated outside their home country and was influential over the era of the early pianoforte and beyond.

Duphly first began publishing his harpsichord works during the 1740s at the time when the instrument’s prominence was becoming overshadowed by the pianoforte and consequently became one of the last members of the French harpsichord school. Born in Rouen into a family with a fine music tradition Duphly held posts of organist at Evreux Cathedral, St. Eloi and Notre Dame de la Ronde in Rouen before leaving to settle in Paris in 1742 were he earned his living as a harpsichord teacher.

All Duphly’s surviving works are harpsichord compositions and not surprisingly reflect a strong influence of Jean-Philippe Rameau. His four books of harpsichord works published between 1744 to 1768 are a marvellous legacy from the composer and reflect changing developments in keyboard music in France during that time.

The harpsichordist Jos van Immerseel expertly performs the selection of eleven Duphly works and seems perfectly suited to the composer’s melodic keyboard writing which on the surface seems to be simple and clear yet contains many testing virtuoso passages. In La Pothouin van Immerseel finds the required blend of grace and agility in this rich and elegant work and in La Forqueray he confidently provides the melodic mood in a delicate and tender fashion. Van Immerseel’s instrument has a crisp tone and a fine presence without ever sounding over-bright.

Born in Thionville in 1689 the details of Joseph Bodin de Boismortier’s early life are extremely sketchy. It is known that he relocated to Paris in 1724 and in the years that followed published over one hundred works in various genres which it is said provided him with enormous wealth. Maybe owing to envy the music establishment judged him harshly and he was frequently reproached for writing too many popular and facile works for financial reasons.

Lawrence Boulay is the harpsichordist for the selection of five of the compositions that were published in 1736. As with the Duphly works all Boismortier’s pieces are given titles as was the custom of the day. Boulay is clearly a skilled performer and gives a fine account of these works making them sound uncomplicated and melodic, playing with a most subtle touch which seems highly appropriate. The soloist makes fine work of the contrasting styles of the light gavotte La Transalpine and the more serious sarabande La Valétudinaire.

The harpsichord that Boulay has chosen has a slight metallic sounding reverberation but this proves to be not too unpleasant. Furthermore there is some noise from the mechanics of the instrument which seems more noticeable than those from the harpsichord used by Jos van Immerseel.

This Apex recording reuses material previously released in 1976 from the Erato label however there is little sign of age in the interpretations. The booklet notes are typically brief yet interesting although there are no details about the performers. I do consider that in the days of 80 minute plus CDs for Apex to offer a measly 58 minutes, even at budget price is rather pushing it.

An appealing and most melodic selection of rare French harpsichord works, expertly performed with a very decent sound. Highly recommendable listening.

Michael Cookson

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