L Couperin: Préludes non mesurés; Prelude in imitation of Mr Froberger’

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WORKS: Préludes non mesurés; Prelude in imitation of Mr Froberger’
PERFORMER: Glen Wilson (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555936
After Louis Couperin died in 1661, aged about 35, his harpsichord music was copied into a manuscript collection of 132 pieces. The ordering, by key and by genre, leaves players free to compile their own suites, as Wilson has done here, adding extra ‘Préludes non mesurés’, which he has recently edited. They are extraordinary pieces, in continuous semibreves and without bar-lines, the performer deciding on pulse and rhythm, guided by the harmonic outlines of the chains of notes and by long slurs written over them. Wilson plays them freely, almost haltingly at times, certainly reflecting their improvisatory character, but imposing less sense of direction than I’ve heard from Couperin’s great champion, Davitt Moroney. In a ‘Prelude in imitation of Mr Froberger’, Wilson is particularly expansive, even making heavy going of the lively central fugue. However, I much enjoyed the ‘Pavane’, an in memoriam ‘tombeau’. Its F sharp minor is a dissonantly poignant key in his chosen harpsichord tuning, unspecified but certainly unequally tempered. Another ‘tombeau’ (to a lutenist friend who reportedly died after falling downstairs when drunk) is well served by Wilson’s leisurely tempo through seemingly timeless repeated chords, and fully revealing the beauty of slow, pure-tuned F major chords. George Pratt