Le coeur & l’oreille – Manuscpit Bauyn

Giulia Nuti, Louis Denis harpsichord 1658
Arcana A 434
Music by d’Anglebert, de Chambonnières, L. Couperin, Froberger, Hardel, Mesangeau & Pinel

The Bauyn Manuscript is a major source of French harpsichord music from the 17th century, containing the music of all the main clavecinistes  active in and around Paris at the time. Represented on the CD are a couple of big names, Louis Couperin and Johann Jacob Froberger, and many less familiar composers, such as Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, Jacques Hardel, Jean Henry d’Anglebert, René Mesangeau and Germain Pinel. What is remarkable is that the ‘lesser’ composers sound every bit as talented as the household names, perhaps a function of the fact that a performer would naturally choose ‘the best of the rest’, or perhaps suggesting that many of them deserve closer scrutiny. The wonderful harpsichord Giulia Nuti plays, ‘Le Haneton’ by Louis Denis made in Paris in 1658, couldn’t be more appropriate; it has a rich and varied selection of tones which are superbly captured by the sound engineers. This venerable instrument is tuned to 1/4-comma meantone a=392, which seems perfect for the repertoire, becoming suitably sourer as the composers err into remoter keys and sweetening as they come back home. The virtuosic Ms Nuti clearly has a profound knowledge of ornamentation, and her performances are suitably encrusted with the appropriate decoration. This is a wonderfully evocative CD, redolent of a bygone age of mannered elegance and rhetorical expressiveness.

D. James Ross