Rameau Complete Solo Keyboard Works
Steven Devine (harpsichord)
Resonus Classics RES 10214 219:39 mins (3 discs)
Four years in the making, Steven Devine’s survey of Rameau’s complete solo harpsichord music reaches journey’s end with previous download-only releases available for the first time on CD obligingly bundled together with a disc corralling Rameau’s transcriptions from Les Indes Galantes, and the Cinq Pièces of 1741. Throughout the set Devine has kept faith with his trusty copy of a 1636 harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers, and why ring the changes? Gorgeously full-toned it’s given a superlative recording at once rich and immediate. Indeed Christophe Rousset deployed a copy of the same instrument for his own extensive (though not ‘complete’) Rameau recordings getting on for three decades ago.
The designation ‘complete’ invariably offers a hostage to fortune, and in omitting the admittedly trifling Les petits marteaux it may be that Devine is siding with those who question its parentage. Whatever the case, conceived as a project to honour the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death in 2014, Devine does the composer proud, his razor-sharp articulation at the service of supremely considered readings that impart an ear-gripping clarity. In his account of the Suite in A minor, ‘Les Trois Mains’ packs an incisive punch, while the imperious hauteur of ‘La Triomphale’ is carried over into the ensuing ‘Gavotte’ whose generous ‘Doubles’ are presented with cumulative magisterial lucidity. Sometimes Devine’s very scrupulousness works against a sense of spontaneity, (the hen clucks a little stiffly in ‘La Poule’), and with his instinctive native grasp of the French Baroque, ultimately Christophe Rousset arguably has more fun with Rameau’s frequent recourse to wit and theatricality. Nevertheless, Devine’s is a set executed with abundant virtuosity and crammed with delights. Explore!