Couperin, Scarlatti, Kouneva, Salmenhaara; Cage; Tiensuu, Hakim, Brubeck, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brubeck,Couperin,etc,Hakim,Kouneva,Salmenhaara; Cage; Tiensuu,Scarlatti
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Frivolous Harpsichord
WORKS: Works by Couperin, Scarlatti, Kouneva, Salmenhaara; Cage; Tiensuu, Hakim, Brubeck,
PERFORMER: Jukka Tiensuu (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 891-2
This title positively insults the composers – of music new, old and in transcription – represented on this disc. There is nothing ‘frivolous’ here, only lively wit, imaginative experiment, technical challenges – and a couple of superficial doodlings.

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Naji Hakim’s Rondo betrays the influence of Messiaen, his predecessor as organist of La Trinité in Paris, with wonderfully colouristic harmonies. Penka Kouneva’s Raga combines Indian modes with pulsing Bulgarian rhythm.

Clever pastiche includes Kagel’s Ragtime-Waltz and Franzpeter Goebels’ Bird-boogie, ingeniously indebted to William Byrd’s ‘Flute and Drum March’ and Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker’s improvisations. Another particularly haunting cross-over is Tonino Tesei’s Italian Rock, the bare fifths of medieval organum gradually intensifying into gripping virtuosity in an uncompromisingly contemporary idiom. Tiensuu’s own Velo stretches harpsichord technique to almost unimaginable lengths.

Baroque music is represented by Couperin, again anything but ‘frivolous’ in a biting satire on the power-hungry Musicians’ Union that attempted to dictate what French musicians were permitted to play. Scarlatti’s Fandango is a recent rediscovery, a vividly sensuous dance with castanet effects.

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Brubeck’s metrical puns in Rondo a la Turk, alternating bars of 2+2+2+3 beats with 3+3+3, transcribe rather ponderously from piano to harpsichord. Otherwise the playing is spectacular and the recorded sound excellent. George Pratt