Baroque Conversations

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau; Feldman; Couperin; Frescobaldi; Froberger; Gibbons; Handel; Lachemann; Porat; Sahar; Sweelink
LABELS: Sony Classical
ALBUM TITLE: Baroque Conversations
WORKS: Rameau: Gavotte et doubles; Feldman: Piano Piece to Philip Guston; Couperin: Pièces de clavecin II: Les barricades mysérieuses; Frescobaldi: Toccata Ottava di durezze e ligature; Froberger: Tombeau sur la mort de M Blancrocher; Gibbons: Pavan Lord Salisbury; Handel: Keyboard Suite in D minor; Lachemann: Wiegenmusik; Porat: WHAAM!; Sahar:Aux murailles rougies; Sweelink: Mein junges Leben hat ein End – variations
PERFORMER: David Greilsammer (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 88697929692

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When it comes to artful programming, David Greilsammer is a past master. For the Naïve label he made an ingeniously ordered exploration of the fantasia. His Sony Classical debut, meanwhile, embarks on four ‘conversations’ alternating contemporary and Baroque works. Pieces by Rameau and Sweelinck bookend the programme.

Of the contemporary pieces, crystalline miniatures by Feldman and Lachenmann are augmented by two very different works specially written for Greilsammer. It soon becomes clear that the ‘conversations’ are not confined to the designated ‘chapters’ on the CD, but take place between works across the CD. The repeated notes in Matan Porat’s Messiaen-meets-bebop Whaam! nod to the fleet flamenco chattering of Soler’s D major Sonata, while Froberger’s Tombeau for Monsieur Blancrocher (here sometimes sounding like Keith Jarrett improvising in 17th-century style) continues the jazz resonance. The overly fastidious opening of the Rameau suggests a degree of narcissistic navel-gazing that’s also evident in Gibbons’s Lord Salisbury’s Pavan and Greilsammer can be infuriatingly self-conscious at times.

But persevere: he’s also an illuminating companion full of pellucid insights, studied elegance and, in the contemporary works, as compelling when negotiating nocturnal Feldman as he is viscerally persuasive conjuring up Porat’s edgy verve.

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Paul Riley