Couperin: Pièces de clavecin, Book 4

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Pièces de clavecin, Book 4
PERFORMER: Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)Kaori Uemura (viola da gamba)
François Couperin’s four books of harpsichord music contain 27 ‘ordres’, or suites, made up of dance movements and character pieces with enigmatic titles, some of which refer to figures in Couperin’s circle at Versailles. This recording follows on from Christophe Rousset’s admirable account of Book 3 last year, and anyone whose appetite was whetted by that will not be disappointed by this new collection. Rousset’s playing is characterised above all by the qualities that Couperin himself loved in the harpsichord: ‘precision, clarity and brilliance’. And Couperin, no doubt, would also have been delighted with Rousset’s meticulous ornamentation, having bemoaned the fact that players in his own day took too many liberties. If I have one criticism of Rousset’s playing it would be that he is occasionally a little too serious: true, this collection appeared at the end of Couperin’s career, and contains much introspective music, but a touch more playfulness would not go amiss. Nonetheless, this is exceptionally fine playing, and a welcome addition to the available versions of the Pièces. The recorded sound is pleasant, but marred by a very airless balance on the viola da gamba in ‘La croûilli’. Kate Bolton