Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Premier Livre de Pièces de Clavecin (1706) [11:02]
Pièces de Clavecin (1724) [33:56]
Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin ou Second Livre (1726-7) [32:66]
La Dauphine [2:12]
Marcelle Charbonnier (harpsichord)
rec. 1953, Salle Apollo, Paris

There is very little information to be found on the harpsichordist Marcelle Charbonnier. She was born in 1905 and studied with Alfred Cortot at the l'Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris. She made several recordings, specializing in 17th and 18th century French composers, mostly for Philips. It is from Philips LP copies that this 1953 recording of harpsichord works by Jean-Philippe Rameau was taken. The Premier Livre de Pièces de Clavecin, (1706) consists of the Suite in A minor, Pièces de Clavessin, (1724) has two Suites in E minor and D major, and Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin ou Second Livre (1726-7) again consists of two Suites in A minor and G major/minor. The Suites are a combination of traditional dances and character pieces.

Charbonnier approaches these emotionally contrasting pieces with tremendous skill, imaginative choices of registration and a sense of adventure. The performances are rhythmically adept, with tempi and phrasing well-judged, and articulation clear. In ‘La Poule’ from the Nouvelles Suites, she vividly captures the clucking of hens. In ‘Le Rappel des Oiseaux’ the birds are graphically brought to life. La Joyeuse from Pièces de Clavessin truly lives up to its name, as does ‘Tambourin’ from the same set.

The final work on the CD is ‘La Dauphine’, which is thought to be the Rameau’s last composition and the sole harpsichord work surviving in manuscript form in the composer’s own hand. In Charbonnier’s hands it is a scintillating tour de force. There is no information given on the instrument she uses, but it renders an agreeable sound, with a bright top and rich sonorous bass.

These are superb digital re-masterings from first-class LP copies. Whilst there are no booklet notes with this release, at nearly 80 minutes, this is a generously timed disc.

Stephen Greenbank