Jacquet de la Guerre: Pièces de clavecin Livres 1, 2

Elisabetta Guglielmin harpsichord
116:36 (2 CDs in card wallet)
OnClassical OC17091b

When, some years ago now, I first reviewed a CD of Jacquet de la Guerre’s harpsichord music it was a case of ‘who?’ and ‘where has she been hiding?’. Now her music is well established in the CD catalogues though not yet core repertoire in concert. (But then, how many harpsichord recitals are there?) This release offers the four suites from her 1687 livre, followed by the two published in 1707 as being suitable also for the ‘viollon’, though that option is not explored here. The music is played in its published order which means that CD1 is entirely in minor keys, which some may find hard going. Each suite of Book 1 opens with an un-barred prelude, through which Elisabetta Guglielmin finds very convincing routes. It is also in these movements that the chosen temperament makes its most piquant contributions. The four traditional dances follow, and then each group ends with one or more ‘others’ – menuets, gavottes etc. This player is not to be rushed which does mean that the many ornaments can be gracefully brought into the lines. I did sometimes feel, however, that at these tempi her legitimately expressive flexibility teetered just a bit too close to waywardness.

The movements of the 1707 volume are more expansive, with an eight-movement D minor suite followed by six movements in G major. This may be the place to start for any new to the style – the chaconne at the end of the first suite is a summary of the 17th-century claveciniste’s art. The booklet (Eng/Fr/It) places Jacquet in her context and the instrument is a double manual, rich-toned ‘after Ruckers’ copy (1636 original). And on almost the smallest of points – I’d love the last note to be a fraction longer: the music stops, but lacks a sense of ‘end’.

David Hansell

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