Marchand • Rameau

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COMPOSERS: Louis Marchand; Jean-Philippe Rameau
LABELS: Ambronay
ALBUM TITLE: Marchand • Rameau
WORKS: Marchand: Suites in D & G; Trois pieces; Rameau: Suite in A
PERFORMER: Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)


Louis Marchand is best remembered for his lurid biography and the famous story that he apparently ducked out of a planned harpsichord contest with JS Bach. It’s a pity the legends have eclipsed his work, for Marchand was a prodigiously gifted keyboard player whose virtuoso technique, as well as his vacillating temper, can be felt in music that is by turns flamboyant, fiery, meditative and graceful. Among his admirers was Jean-Philippe Rameau, whose A major Suite of 1706 Rousset includes on this disc, a work coloured by lush harmonies, stippled with dissonances and chromaticism.

Rousset’s scrupulous technique and sinewy fingerwork make light of this highly wrought style, with its fiddly ornaments, arabesques and flourishes. He reads the unmeasured preludes with improvisatory flair and is ever responsive to the pliant rhythms of the dance movements. His Rameau, with its combination of rhetoric, drama, tenderness and wit, is particularly fine. The magnificent early 17th-century harpsichord is by Pierre Donzelague, a distinguished maker whom Rameau knew. Its voluptuous sound and temperament enhance Rameau’s spicy colours and the burnished sonorities of Marchand’s Suites. The recorded sound has a slight edginess, but not a note is lost.


Kate Bolton