Elina Mustonen harpsichord
Byrd, F. Couperin, Rameau + modern composers
As a lover of birds and the harpsichord, this CD could have been fashioned specially for me! Throughout history composers have admired and imitated the songs of birds, and this CD by harpsichordist Elina Mustonen explores the relationship in the keyboard music of the 17th, 18th and 21st centuries. The CD opens with the stunning sounds of nightingale song before Mustonen embarks on the Quatorzième Ordre from Couperin’s Troisième Livre de Clavecin of 1722, in which the composer evokes the songs of various birds, most prominently arguably the most distinguished of avian vocalists, the nightingale. After the Couperin, we are taken through a group of modern pieces for harpsichord by Peter Machajdík and Oli Mustonen with bird connections before the programme concludes with some slightly tangential Byrd and some much more on-message Rameau. Elina Mustonen entitles her programme notes A Bird Fancyer’s Delight and it is perhaps a pity that she didn’t arrange some of the melodies from that famous 17th-century English publication rather than shoe-horn in the Byrd (what’s in a name?) and the modern works, which are a bit of a culture shock. The sound of Mustonen’s 1993 Kroesbergen Couchet copy harpsichord is superbly rich and vividly captured by her sound engineers. All in all, I felt that this programme was an intriguing idea, best at its beginning and end, seeming slightly to lose its way in the middle, although the quality of the music and the playing are never less than excellent.
D. James Ross