Couperin: Pièces de clavecin

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LABELS: Mirare
WORKS: Pièces de clavecin
PERFORMER: Pierre Hantaï (harpsichord)


Excellently recorded on a delightfully sonorous two-manual harpsichord, this anthology is, to my mind, a splendid introduction to François Couperin’s ravishing musical world.

The instrument is, as was the common practice in France, a mid 18th-century rebuild and expansion by Joseph Collesse of a 17th-century instrument of unknown provenance.

Its ringing upper tones can be clearly heard to fine effect in ‘Les fauvettes Plaintives’ and ‘Le carillon de Cythère’ from the third of Couperin’s four books of harpsichord music and throughout the characteristically rich lower register is a constant delight.

The rationale for Pierre Hantaï’s choice of pieces is not particularly clear, but in general the selection provides variety and an opportunity to really hear the full range of the instrument.

Movements from all four books, including two preludes from Couperin’s teaching manual, The Art of Playing the Harpsichord, sandwich the theatrically inspired variations on‘Les folies françaises’.

The acid test for success in this repertoire is that the abundant ornaments and the unequal passagework must seem integrated rather than obtrusive. In this, Hantaï succeeds very well.


Some may find some of the pointing in the moderately paced pieces a little precious, but these are for the most part persuasive and winning performances. Jan Smaczny