Rameau: The Complete Keyboard Music, Vol. 3

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COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Toccata Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Rameau: The Complete Keyboard Music, Vol. 3
WORKS: Suites in A minor/major & G minor/major; Concerto No. 5; La Dauphine; Les petits marteaux; Pigmalion: Giga
PERFORMER: Stephen Gutman
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC0052

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Stephen Gutman’s recordings of Rameau’s complete keyboard works make a fitting tribute for the composer’s 250th anniversary, and include pieces never before recorded on either harpsichord or piano. Alfred Cortot and Emil Gilels used to play the bewitching Le rappel des oiseaux as an encore, but, on the whole pianists have regarded Rameau’s keyboard music as strictly not for them. But as the works of Rameau’s older contemporary Couperin gain acceptance as part of the pianistic repertoire, such attitudes are at last softening. Gutman aims to prove that, far from being ill-suited to harpsichord works, the piano can illuminate them; as he points out, its capacity to vary the tone allows the player to bring out the contrasting voices in polyphony, and his judicious transcriptions repeatedly demonstrate this.

His final volume contains the most magnificent series of variations ever written for harpsichord (in Suite No. 4), but much of the music is refreshingly unfamiliar, and often intensely vivid. Gutman’s responsive touch brings out the dance rhythms underlying many of the pieces, and his ornamentations suggest the harpsichord’s perfumed harmonics. When virtuosity is required – as with rapid hand-crossing across four and a half octaves – he delivers it effortlessly, and he does rustic charm in spades. His erudite liner-note commentaries offer exactly the sort of information other pianists will need, as they follow him into this fascinating musical territory.

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Michael Church