RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Jacques DUPHLY (1715-1789)
La Larare (1e livre, 1744) [4:09]
Chaconne (3e livre, 1756) [7:30]
Médée (3e livre) [4:06]
Les Grâces (3e livre) [8:15]
Rondeau (1e livre) [2:53]
Gavotte (2e livre, 1748) [4:25]
La Lanza (2e livre) [7:36]
La de Villeneuve (3e livre) [4:08]
La de Belombre (3e livre) [3:58]
La Forqueray (3e livre) [5:56]
La Boucon (1e livre) [3:03]
La Pothoüin (4e livre) [5:53]
La de Vaucanson (4e livre) [5:22]
Rondeau en do (1e livre) [5:10]
Aya Hamada (harpsichord)
rec. 2014, Chapelle de l'Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris
NAMI RECORDS WWCC-7784 [72:22]
Jacques Duphly represents “the grace, beauty and elevated sensibility of French harpsichord playing” which will be familiar to those keen on the music of Rameau and Couperin. Aya Hamada’s concise but informative booklet notes also point out that Duphly was trained by François D’Agincourt in his birthplace of Rouen. He became a highly regarded harpsichord teacher in Paris, numbering Claude Balbastre and Armand-Louis Couperin amongst his pupils. He died the day after the storming of the Bastille having vanished from public life some twenty years after publishing his fourth volume of harpsichord music.
This is a very fine sounding recording indeed, with as much deep bass as there is crisp sparkle in the colour of the instrument. There is indeed almost as much to say about the harpsichord used for this recording as the music itself. This is the so-called ‘Nicholas Lefebvre 1755’, which was originally presented as a restored antique. It was later revealed to have been made by Martin Skowroneck in 1984 in a plan cooked but between him and Gustav Leonhardt to see how close they could get to creating an ‘early’ harpsichord using authentic techniques and materials. The process was also designed to reveal to what extent experts and performers would accept that this was a genuine 18th century instrument rather than a 20th century copy.
Tenderness and virtuosity are presented here in equal measure, though spectacular pieces such as Médée suit the deeply resonant impact of this instrument very memorably indeed. Aya Hamada’s playing is not only technically immaculate, but musically very stimulating indeed. Not all harpsichord recordings welcome repeated listening, but this is the kind of stylish and vibrantly lively set of performances I could spin all day without fatigue. Taking the following track, Les Grâces, and you can hear Hamada’s touch with those “exquisite ornamentations”, also creating a magically ‘mythical’ atmospheric aura of sound through just the right amount of legato sustaining of the notes. All of these pieces have something to offer, but the selection also includes highlights such as the substantial rondeau La Pothoüin. This piece builds on harmonically sublime couplets with descending and ascending lines in variations of increasing virtuosity. La de Vaucanson with its Alberti bass left hand and boogie-woogie octaves is great fun. The final Rondeau en do is a clear homage to a Couperin favourite, Les Barricades Mystérieuses.
Whatever the competition, this is a harpsichord recording to treasure. If you want Duphly’s complete harpsichord works you could do worse than investigate Pieter-Jan Belder on Brilliant Classics. Mitzi Meyersson’s MDG recital (see review) is worth considering, though Kirk McElhearn was less than complimentary about the over-resonant acoustic in the recording. Jos van Immerseel’s contribution from the 1970s (see review) is still attractive though recorded very closely: you listen as if with your cheek to the soundboard. There are quite a few single-disc recital programmes around but it’s always worth trying these in advance if you can. After all, widely differing ideas about the tuning of instruments can have a big effect on the final result. Hamada seems to be using a kind of mean temperament which does tend to iron out some of the more juicy sharpness in remote key signatures such as the F minor of La Forqueray. The reviewer’s job is made easy in this case however. In terms of instrument and sound quality as well as in the spirit and touch of the performances, Aya Hamada’s recording is simply the best.
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