Rameau: Pièces de clavecin en concerts

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LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Pièces de clavecin en concerts
PERFORMER: Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord), Rachel Podger (violin), Jonathan Manson (viola da gamba)
What makes these performances of Rameau’s five suites of Pièces de clavecin en concerts sparkle is Trevor Pinnock’s abundant and irresistible rhythmic élan. His spirited playing and his feeling for Rameau’s eloquent phrasing calls forth ready responses from Rachel Podger and Jonathan Manson, the two other members of this well-balanced trio. Music and painting have tended to form a closer alliance in France than in other European countries and their relationship is often pertinent in the 17th and 18th centuries. Opera subjects were frequently the source of iconography for painters and, albeit more intimately and on a smaller canvas Rameau’s vignettes evoke, time and again, the paintings of contemporaries such as Lancret, Boucher and Cöypel. The Pièces en concerts are full of metaphor and subtle gestures which, superficially at least, provide the listener with lightly etched character sketches. But their real charm lies in their reflection of the art of seeming rather than of being, allowing our imagination to roam freely. Pinnock seems to have an intuitive understanding of the idiom, allowing us to be affected by a range of emotions by means of an unfailing expressive délicatesse. Many performances fail on account of stylistic rigidity and excessive didacticism. Trio Sonnerie (Virgin) and, very recently, Chiara Banchini, Marianne Müller and Françoise Lengellé (Lindoro) are among my front runners but, for sheer panache and warmth of sentiment Pinnock and friends come out on top. Nicholas Anderson