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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661)
Keyboard Music

Five Pieces in D: Prélude; Allemande; Courante; Sarabande; Gigue
Prelude (Toccade) in A minor (After M. Froberger)
Prelude in F major
Tombeau de M. de Blancrocher in F major
Five Pieces in G minor: Prélude; Allemande; Courante; Sarabande; Passacaille
Six Pieces in C: Prélude; Allemande; Courante; Courante (croisée); Rigaudon et Double; Gigue
Prelude in A major
Pavane in F sharp minor
Prelude (Toccade) in D minor
Prelude in G major
Galliarde in G major
Glen Wilson (copy of 1628 harpsichord made by Johannes Ruckers the Younger)
Recorded at Schutt-Bau in Hofheim-Rügheim, Lower Franconia, February 2001
NAXOS 8.555936 [74:41]


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Verlet/Astrée and Cummings/Naxos

I was very pleased to receive this Naxos disc for review, as it features Glen Wilson who is one of my favorite harpsichordists. His Bach Well-Tempered Clavier set released on Teldec more than ten years ago still strikes me as the most rewarding harpsichord set I know along with those by Kenneth Gilbert on Harmonia Mundi. In his set, Wilson is always serving the music, adjusting his style superbly to suit each prelude and fugue.

Receiving a disc of Louis Couperinís keyboard music is also a treat. Although his nephew, Francois Couperin, has the more esteemed reputation, I find that Louis wrote solo keyboard music just as enjoyable and expertly crafted. We know much of his harpsichord music in the form of suites having various movements such as preludes, allemandes, courantes, sarabandes, gigues, etc. However, there is no evidence at all that Couperin banded any of these pieces together. He wrote Ďminiaturesí, and others did the grouping. On the plus side, these groupings are architecturally coherent and donít seem to do the slightest damage to Couperinís music.

At this point, readers will likely expect me to lavish praise upon the disc, but such is not the case. Although I rarely reject a recording solely on the basis of sound quality, the Wilson disc has to be one of those rare occasions. To my ears, he sounds as if heís performing in a humid airplane hangar. Over the past couple of weeks, I have tried, to no avail, to enjoy this disc with headphones, main speakers, different audio systems and automobile CD player. Under all circumstances, the sound has little foundation or definition; essentially, each note and chord carries atmospheric baggage. Without definition, Couperinís music loses much of its appeal.

I canít see the point of putting up with the inadequate soundstage when we have alternatives such as the exploratory Blandine Verlet on Astrée and the warm and poetic Laurence Cummings on Naxos. Yes, Naxos has another Louis Couperin keyboard recording, and it has some of the same pieces as the Wilson in sound that is vastly superior to that with which Wilson has to contend. For those who still have interest in Wilsonís disc, I can assure you that his playing is excellent with a style that represents a compromise between the approaches of Verlet and Cummings.

Don Satz

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