L Couperin: Suites de pièces; Pavanne in F sharp minor

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WORKS: Suites de pièces; Pavanne in F sharp minor
In his notes in the CD booklet, Skip Sempé suggests that the celebrated harpsichord works generally thought to be by Louis Couperin might actually be by another member of the great Couperin dynasty – a tantalising and controversial theory that Sempé promises to elaborate in a forthcoming article. Sempé also takes a rather different stance from the conventional in his interpretations of these glorious works. He eschews the mannered elegance and grace so often associated with the great French clavecinistes in favour of powerful, visceral readings that capture the darker side of Couperin’s creative persona and the music’s elemental qualities. He shapes the ‘unmeasured preludes’ with expressive rhetoric, gives drama and virile energy to the dance movements and elsewhere offsets fiery virtuosity with reflective sobriety – most effectively in the gorgeous F sharp minor Pavanne. Sempé draws an impressive, all-encompassing sound from this magnificent harpsichord – a copy of a French instrument by Bruce Kennedy, the tuning of which captures all the subtle variations of shade and colour that are such an intrinsic part of this sound-world. The recording enhances the instrument’s warmth and conveys every detail of Couperin’s intricate music without the oppressively close perspective that mars so many solo harpsichord recordings. Kate Bolton