IX Suittes pour le Clavessin (1712)
Suitte I in D minor [6:40]
Suitte II in D [9:03]
Suitte III in G [8:23]
Suitte IV in C [8:48]
Suitte V in G minor [8:05]
Suitte VI in A minor [9:27]
Suitte VII in E [7:31]
Suitte VIII in A [11:23]
Suitte IX in D [9:29]
Alessandro Simonetto (harpsichord)
rec. Studio, Pove del Grappa, Veneto, Italy, 2010. DDD

Not much is known about Pieter Bustijn - not even for sure where his family came from or what language he spoke. The CD booklet reproduces the original frontispiece from the first publication in 1712 of this volume of Suittes, his only known works, which gives his name as 'Pierre Bustin'.

What is certain is that this is a disc that no lover of Baroque or harpsichord music in general should be without: nearly eighty minutes of enormously appealing, high-octane invention superbly rendered by Alessandro Simonetto on a magnificent reproduction Ruckers instrument, brilliantly captured by the sound engineer - all that at Brilliant's bargain price!

Five of the Suittes are in five movements, one in six, two in seven and one in eight. The basic pattern is Preludio - Allemanda - Corrente - Sarabanda - Giga, sometimes with a Variatio tagged onto the end, with or without an inserted Aria, and a Gavotta occasionally replacing the Giga. Listening to eighty minutes of solo harpsichord is not always recommendable, but many will surely find themselves unwilling to press the Stop button - either that, or time will fly past unnoticed. Only one movement of the 53 in total is three minutes long, and many come in at well under a minute - there is no time to lose interest! Instead the listener is swept along on the tide of Bustijn's imagination.

According to the notes, these Suittes were well known in northern Europe in the 18th century, and Johann Sebastian Bach may have been familiar with them. There are similarities here and there with Bach's keyboard music, but Bustijn is a generation older than Bach, and his style is in any case original and distinctive. Simonetto's tempi are almost universally on the fast side, which only adds to the thrill of Bustijn's ravishing music.

As well as being an accomplished harpsichordist, Simonetto is also a sound engineer - this disc was recorded and mastered by him - and he is founder of, and, all worthy online art music projects.

Apart from the recording details, which had to be mechanically recovered from, where a download-only version of the disc is available, the booklet is as informative as it can be about the Suittes and their elusive composer, given the dearth of reliable historical data. The harpsichord is a 2008 model by William Horn based on a mid-17th century Johannes Ruckers instrument made in Antwerp - the booklet says in 1638, the website 1643. Two of these Suittes have been recorded previously: no.5 by Bob van Asperen (Sony Classical Vivarte 46349, 1991), and no.6 by Jacques Ogg (Globe 5101, 1993) - but this superlative recording by Simonetto is the one to get.


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This superlative recording by Simonetto is the one to get.