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Jan Kalsbeek Fecit
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562?-1621)
Fantasia Chromatica [8:13]
Louis COUPERIN (1626?-1661)
Prelude à l’imitation de Mr Froberger [5:58]
Allemande l’amiable [2:58]
Courante la Mignonne [1:20]
Sarabande [2:28]
La Piémontaise [1:43]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637?-1707)
Preludium g-moll BuxWV 163 [7:49]
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Suite c-moll [7:48]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata e-moll BWV 914 [7:12]
Jacques DUPHLY (1715-1789)
Pièces de clavecin (1744) [13:36]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonate D-dur K 490 [5:58]
Sonate D-dur K 491 [4:42]
Sonate D-dur K 492 [3:32]
Albert-Jan Roelofs (harpsichord)
rec. Huis de Voorst, Eefde, The Netherlands, 7-8 June 1995
Experience Classicsonline

This is a showcase for four harpsichords built by Jan Kalsbeek after models contemporary with the music for which they are used. The booklet has some nice photos of all four, though as you can see from the cover, not all in what might be considered their natural habitat.
For the works of Sweelinck and Duphly, a Flemish two manual model by Johannes Ruckers from 1624 is used, the original now being in the Musée d’Unterlinden at Colmar, France. In the Fantasia Chromatica by Sweelinck, the composer uses a motif consisting of a descen­ding chromatic scale. Because of the use of ‘mean-tone’ temperament, in which not all semitones are equal, the tension built up by the chromatic scale is very clear – something which might sound ‘out of tune’ to modern ears, now accustomed to a more ‘well-tempered’ tuning. Albert-Jan Roelofs gives us a sensitive and measured performance on this full sounding instrument. The Ruckers instrument shows the tradition that was developed in France around 1700 to adapt harpsichords to the needs of the composers of that time. The range was enlarged, and the keyboards aligned in a process called ‘ravalement’. In this form these instruments became popular in eighteenth century France, and because of their improved resonance they were well-suited for the music that was written later on in that century. The music of Jacques Duphly sounds very good on this instrument, with his Pièces de clavecin having something of the feel of character pieces by François Couperin, but moving towards the less complicated and ornamental ‘galant’ style.

An instrument built after a model by Louis Denis from 1658 has been used for the pieces by Louis Couperin, who as one of three brothers was an uncle of the younger François. The more nasal, lute-like sound of this instrument makes it very well suited for the performance of this kind of music, which is representative of his output in being around two thirds dance music. The Froberger influence is clear in the free-flowing opening to the Prelude, and the elder Couperin’s lyrical invention comes across very well in the works represented in these recordings.

German court culture at the end of the seventeenth century was oriented towards France, and Georg Böhm followed this trend by writing music in the typically French form of a Suite. Instruments built by Michael Mietke in Berlin from around 1700 show French characteristics coupled to a case construction that is derived from the Italian tradition of harpsichord building. The tone of these instruments is more intense than the others, with a greater carrying power. These qualities make the instrument suitable for the performance of polyphonic music as well as for music with toccata-like passages. This alternation of polyphony and running passages is found in the toccatas by Johann Sebastian Bach and Dietrich Buxtehude, performed with suitable bravura by Albert-Jan Roelofs.

By the time Domenico Scarlatti was active, the art of the Toccata that still flourished in Germany at the begin­ning of the eighteenth century had become more or less obsolete in Italy. Keyboard technique, freeing itself of its polyphonic limitations, began to take on the purer, more virtuosic instrumental form of the Sonata. Domenico Scarlatti’s 555 Sonatas are early examples of this. The three sonatas K 490, 491 and 492, begin to show the outlines of what later would become the three-part sonata. The original of the instrument played here was built by Giovanni Battista Giusti in 1693, and the lighter touch and tone of this harpsichord is appropriate for the intricate twists and turns of Scarlatti’s characteristic style.
Very well recorded in an authentic sounding chamber acoustic, this survey provides a fascinating potted overview of the development and heyday of harpsichord manufacture and composition. This is of course a bit of a mixed bag of famous and not-so well known works, with the majority having numerous alternatives in the catalogue. Albert-Jan Roelofs is however an extremely capable guide in all of this repertoire, and this recital on four different harpsichords can safely be recommended for scholarly reference as well as for pure listening pleasure.
Dominy Clements


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