Rameau, Sweelinck, Couperin, Bach, Handel, etc

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2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Couperin,etc,Handel,Rameau,Sweelinck
LABELS: ATMA
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Preludes
WORKS: 24 Preludes by Rameau, Sweelinck, Couperin, Bach, Handel,
PERFORMER: Catherine Perrin (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: ACD 21722
Catherine Perrin creates ‘suites’ of preludes amputated from their subsequent fugues or dances. Many juxtapositions are effective: keys relate, a French un-measured Prélude precedes a free Praeludium by Bull, nine Bach preludes demonstrate the rich variety within this one genre. The performance is fluent and stylish, investigating both the stylistic contrasts of 18th-century Europe and also new music, some from Perrin’s native Canada. She plays a French-inspired instrument, warm and rich for the 18th-century music, and plummy enough to represent the earlier virginals.

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Of the five contemporary pieces, I enjoyed best the sombre gestures of an unmeasured prelude by Serge Arcuri (b1954). But Scott Ross’s manipulation of the Tristan Prelude, in unequal temperament, contradicts the whole ethos of Wagner’s stretching of chromatic boundaries. Worse still is Chopin’s B minor Prelude, Op. 28/6, in a tuning designed for natural keys: the frequent dominant (F sharp) chords sound grotesque. Neither the repeated-note accompaniment nor the cantabile bass melody, shaped by dynamics as much as by rubato and phrasing, have any relevance to the harpsichord.

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A good idea, taken too far. But if you don’t go over the top, you will never discover what lies on the other side. George Pratt