WORKS: Pièces de clavecin en concerts No. 1; Pièces de clavecin en concerts No. 2; Pièces de clavecin en concerts No. 3; Pièces de clavecin en concerts No. 4; Pièces de clavecin en concerts No. 5
PERFORMER: London Baroque
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1385
The practice of embellishing harpsichord music by the creative addition of string instruments was widespread in 18th-century France. In the case of Rameau’s collection of 1741, the result is some of the most delightful chamber music of the French Baroque. The arrangements prompt some interesting changes in character: in most cases, the strings soften the edges of the originals, particularly at cadences. Pieces such as the rondeau ‘La Livri’, which can rattle along rather too easily on the keyboard, acquire a soulful dignity entirely appropriate to its role as a commemoration of the death of the Comte de Livri.
The players of London Baroque are more than equal to the expressive and technical challenges of this music; the poise, delicacy and sheer enjoyment they communicate is a constant delight. Their balance of refined sensibility and infectious enthusiasm is everywhere apparent, but perhaps nowhere more so than in the concluding two movements of the second Concert. They are equally at home in the more rustic numbers, such as the unashamed romp of the two tambourins in the third Concert. Surprisingly, the recording history of these works goes back to the Fifties with a still-fresh performance by Frydén, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt. More recently, the Kuijkens have provided distinguished performances on CD, but across the full gamut of these evergreen pieces, London Baroque is perhaps the most winning of available readings. Jan Smaczny