Barrière / De Bury: Sonates et suites pour le clavecin

Luca Quintaville harpsichord
159:19 (2 CDs in a case)
Brilliant Classics 95428
Barrière Book 6 + six character pieces; De Bury Four suites

Jean-Baptiste Barrière (1707-1747) was a basse d’orchestre  at the Paris Opéra and the first French composer to write idiomatically for the cello (four books of Italianate sonatas 1733-40). His fifth published volume was of six sonatas for the pardessus de viole, the first five of which he transcribed for harpsichord and published, together with an entirely new sonata and six single pieces, as his Book 6. These thus became the first keyboard sonatas to be published by a French composer. And pretty spectacular they are, combining string figurations with elaborate broken octaves and sweeping scale and arpeggio patterns. Imagine an amalgam of Royer, Rameau and Scarlatti on their headier days: this is virtuosic stuff. Luca Quintavalle is more than up for the challenge and even manages to sound as if he is enjoying himself. He sounds equally happy on the second disc, this time in the more obviously French ordres  of Bernard de Bury  (1720-85). His career was spent entirely at the Versailles court: son of an ordinaire de la musique du roi; keyboard player to the chambre du roi  (1744); maître de chapelle  (1744); and successor to Rebel as surintendant de la musique du roi  (1751). The music of his Premiere Livre  (1736/7) clearly shows the influence of Couperin (hardly surprising since Bury was still in his teens) both in musical details and in the titles of the pieces. Very occasionally the ornament playing is a little deliberate but the tremendous surge of the final Chaconne persuades me that I should bring out the rarely deployed 5* for the performance. The booklet identifies the instrument (a very good 2015 copy of Donzelague 1711), includes an informative essay about the music and an artist biography but is in English only.

David Hansell