Rameau: Pieces de clavecin, Book 1; Pieces de clavessin (1724); Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin; La Dauphine; Pieces de clavecin en concerts

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COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Zig Zag
WORKS: Pieces de clavecin, Book 1; Pieces de clavessin (1724); Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin; La Dauphine; Pieces de clavecin en concerts
PERFORMER: Blandine Rannou (harpsichord), Valérie Balssa (flute), Catherine Girard (violin), Emmanuel Balssa (viola da gamba)
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 010301 (distr. Harmonia Mundi)
Blandine Rannou is a young French harpsichordist who has collaborated in previous recordings with Christophe Rousset (Couperin) and Gérard Lesne. Now, as soloist and as participant in her own chamber group, she performs the three printed collections of Rameau’s solo harpsichord pieces, the five suites of pieces ‘en concerts’, and ‘La Dauphine’, which is probably Rameau’s last solo harpsichord piece (c1747) and which remained unpublished until the end of the 19th century. Rannou is a fine player with graceful feeling for phrase, a lively awareness of gesture and a nimble technique which makes the A minor Gavotte and its six progressively dazzling variations sparkle with virtuosity. And her way with visually evocative pieces like ‘Les cyclopes’ is poised and exciting. What then, are we to make of a handful of movements where Rannou’s pulse seems to be in its death throes? The most extreme case here concerns the ‘Allemande’ of the c1728 collection for which she requires an almost incredible 11 minutes, easily breaking what may have been the previously held record by the late Scott Ross of just under nine minutes. The navel contemplation here is just too much, but certainly goes hand-in-hand with page upon page of impenetrable, somewhat epigrammatic commentary, full of hot air and gaseous almost to the point of explosion. But much of the playing is enjoyable and sometimes thought-provoking, and the Pieces en concerts, though occasionally a shade heavy and underpowered (‘La pantomime’, ‘La Rameau’) come over with graceful allure. My first choice for the chamber pieces is Trio Sonnerie (Virgin Veritas) while Trevor Pinnock (CRD) and Noëlle Spieth (Solstice) are more consistently pleasing in the solo repertoire. Nicholas Anderson

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