Armand-Louis Couperin: Pièces de clavecin

Christophe Rousset
100′ (2 CDs in a folder)
Aparté AP236

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Perhaps because of their unusual scoring Armand-Louis’s best-known works are the handful of pieces that he wrote for two harpsichords, and this is the first complete recording of his 1751 solo Pièces. This volume contains suites in G and B flat, both of which intersperse dances and character pieces, often quite expansive in conception, more than merely charming in general character, and inventive in their material and textures. The music is superbly complemented by the marvellous historic instrument on which it is played – a two-manual (with some interesting accessories) by Goujon (early 18th century) with ravalement by Swanen (1784).

It almost goes without saying that the music is also superbly complemented by the artist. Christophe Rousset is one of the outstanding players of our age and he is on fine form here. It’s not so much the notes but the spaces between them that he manages so well – a little breath here or a pushing on there – and his choice of tempo strikes me as consistently perfect. Some of these movements may have been silent for a long time but, as finally revealed on this disc, they do not disappoint.

David Hansell

This is one of two releases I have reviewed as downloads this month. As such it is not possible to comment in the usual way on the overall physical presentation of the package but a few comments on the download experience are appropriate. This is no longer a novelty, of course, and the process for both the music and the booklet is perfectly straightforward. However, any printing of the booklet material needs care and may need a few experiments with single pages to find the optimum settings for both size and format. In particular, beware of pages that are black with white print (a bad design idea anyway) and you may not want to print pages that are not in your language or which contain material of only passing interest. And do not assume that all publications from the same source will work in the same way! Once you have what you want, you will find excellent and informative essays on the composer, his music and the instrument used (English and French).

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