Mersenne’s Clavichord

Keyboard Music in 16th- and 17th-century France
Terence Charlston
68:36
divine art dda 25134

[Dropcap]T[/dropcap]his is not just another recording of French 16th- and 17th-century keyboard music but the result of a fascinating project by Terence Charlton and the maker Peter Bavington to reconstruct the clavichord illustrated in Marin Mersenne’s Harmonie Universelle  published in 1636/7. Since no French clavichord of the period survives, this reconstruction was both challenging and particularly welcome. The result – while much is conjectural – has a plausible sound and works very well in this music.

Charlston showcases the instrument with a programme covering the whole range of French keyboard genres and composers from Antoine de Févin (b. 1470) to Nicholas Lebègue (b. c. 1631). He shows the instrument’s full compass as well as its ability in imitative, improvisatory and dance music, and particularly effectively in an echo piece. To some extent he is scouring the byways to obtain repertory, particularly for the 16th century and not all the music is of the highest quality, but all is played with great commitment. The playing is cleanly articulated and allows the instrument to speak clearly, aided by excellent recording quality from the Royal College of Music studio. Charlston and Bavington have written extended liner notes covering the construction of the instrument and the choice of music. This is another highly successful and important project from Charlston who is indefatigable in his championing of early keyboard instruments and their music.

Noel O’Regan