Vivaldi: Concerti pour deux clavecins

Floral design

Gwennaëlle Alibert, Clément Geoffroy
Encelade ECI 602

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was surprised that I had never heard of Vivaldi’s concertos for two clavecins – of course, there are Bach’s transcriptions of Vivaldi for two harpsichords and strings, and indeed transcription turns out to be the key to this CD. Frustrated by the lack of music by Vivaldi for harpsichord, Gwennaëlle Alibert and Clément Geoffroy have transcribed a selection of his concertos and trio sonatas for a pair of harpsichords. This would appear to be a singularly random thing to do until you read François Couperin’s instructions on how to transform the orchestral music of previous generations into music for two harpsichords. We should bear in mind that, before the days of electronic music reproduction, to hear Vivaldi’s music in the later Baroque you had to assemble a chamber orchestra and persuade them to play this outdated repertoire. Much easier to devise a way of reading it on two harpsichords with one of your mates! The results sound quite unlike anything else you are likely to hear on the harpsichord, wonderfully dense tinkling textures through which you follow the melodic lines like an inquisitive hobbit through Fangorn Forest. Bach’s transcriptions for massed harpsichords such as the charming concerto for four harpsichords spring to mind, but in these transcriptions, all the lines including the orchestral strings are taken by the two keyboards. I found the results absolutely delightful and a feast for the ears – a million miles perhaps from Vivaldi’s original intentions, but – if we are to believe Couperin and others – a sound which might not have been all that alien to the ears of the later Baroque musician. Alibert and Geoffroy use a 2012 Marc Ducorner harpsichord after Ruckers and a 2013 Michel Chabloz harpsichord after the legendary Edinburgh le Taskin, which together produce a wonderfully tinkling ensemble sound. Not everybody’s cup of tea but I love it!

D. James Ross

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