Date of publication: 2017-08-28 03:22
The sway of boats in P 789 cheurs de nuit ( 8766 Fishermen at night 8767 , another of the Po 787 mes proven 786 ales ) evokes, as is apposite, a species of barcarolle. This is one of Chaminade 8767 s finest pieces. Its sinuous E minor main tune accumulates a sinister melancholy which makes one wonder if she knew the barcarolles of Alkan, while powerful deep tolling E 8767 s suggest the beat of distant surf. A more confident and heroic middle section in B major becomes steadily more dramatic, and after the return of the opening idea the waters finally close over it in swirling arpeggio figuration.
This is the first CD in a series of three to be devoted to Couperin 8767 s Pi 787 ces de Clavecin. Having initially read through all 776 pieces, I chose those which I felt translated the best to the modern piano, and which I found the most interesting. On this first CD I am presenting three of his greatest ordres from books Two and Three.
When looking at a list of Couperin 8767 s harpsichord pieces we are immediately struck by the unusual titles. The tradition of giving picturesque or fanciful names to pieces began with the lutenists of the late sixteenth century, and was adopted by Chambonni 787 res and many of the French clavecinists (and later taken up by Satie). More often than not, a feminine form is used, probably as the word pi 787 ce was tacitly implied. It does not mean that Couperin was only describing women in many of his miniatures, although many of them do (for instance La Princesse Marie , written for Marie Leczinska, the future queen of France, and one of Couperin 8767 s harpsichord pupils). In the preface to his first book of pieces, he wrote:
One of Couperin 8767 s most affecting moments comes next with L 8767 Attendrissante ( 8766 The Touching One 8767 ). The indication douloureusement ( 8766 sorrowfully 8767 ) sets the mood for the piece which is played entirely in the lower half of the keyboard. Here we feel once more Couperin 8767 s special feeling for melancholic longing, and the effect is quite haunting. Lengthening the dotted notes (a Baroque performance practice) is necessary to give the right swing to the rhythm.
Two and a half centuries later we are still perplexed by many of these titles. Recent research by Jane Clark and Derek Connon ( 8766 The mirror of human life 8767 : Reflections on Fran 786 ois Couperin 8767 s Pi 787 ces de Clavecin , King 8767 s Music, 7557) sheds fascinating light on the subject, revealing the references to contemporary theatrical productions, and various 8766 in-jokes 8767 that might or might not have been understood by his own circle of friends and acquaintances.
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This collection includes two contrasting waltzes, both in A major (which seems to have been one of Chaminade 8767 s favourite keys) the second and seventh that she published. The Deuxi 787 me valse , Op 77, is salon music at its best a delicately lilting fast waltz, very redolent of Chopin, almost breathless as it swirls around the ballroom and wittily self-intoxicated with its own melodic gaiety. The later Valse romantique , Op 665, is by contrast a large-scale concert waltz with a richer harmonic palette and a vigorous elegance that suggests Chabrier (compare his own Valses romantiques for piano duet). After an agitated A minor middle section, the waltz becomes steadily more brilliant and virtuosic as it approaches its end.
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We are used to hearing the keyboard music of the great harpsichord masters Bach, Scarlatti, even Handel, played on the piano, but why not that of their contemporary, Fran 786 ois Couperin 8766 le Grand 8767 ? Putting this question to Angela Hewitt initiated appropriate investigation, with the result that she has now taken the jewelled miniatures of the French ma 788 treinto her repertoire in addition to her celebrated Bach.
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