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Noblet: Nouvelles Suites De Pieces De Clavecin / Moersch

Noblet / Moersch
Release Date: 11/24/2009 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3005  
Composer:  Charles Noblet
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

NOBLET Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin Charlotte Mattax Moersch (hpd) CENTAUR CRC 3005 (58:35)

Charles Noblet (1715–69) is not likely to be a familiar name, even among early-music fans. During the first two-thirds of the 18th century, while such luminaries as Couperin, Rameau, and Leclair were grabbing the spotlight, a veritable army of minor French musicians worked behind the scenes to keep the musical establishment running. One such was Noblet, whose résumé included organist Read more posts at various smaller Parisian churches, and répétiteur at the École de Chant. In 1739 he was appointed harpsichordist at the royal Opéra, and this secured his place in the Parisian hierarchy. He was not terribly prolific as a composer; a few minor vocal works, a grand motet , a Te Deum and a Mass to St. Cecilia round out his catalog. The collection for which Noblet is best remembered is his Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin , first published in Paris in 1756. These are the first and only keyboard pieces by Noblet; despite the implication in the title, they were not a follow-up to an earlier collection. There are two suites, consisting largely of pièces caractéristiques with catchy, enigmatic titles à la Couperin and Rameau.

Although Noblet draws upon the model established by the clavecinistes for his music, the rapprochement between French and Italian musical tastes typical of the period is clearly evident. I may be imagining things, but the influence of Domenico Scarlatti is unmistakable. Scarlatti’s music was first published in Paris in 1742, and the French were quick to recognize its importance. In pieces such as Le Pétulante (First Suite), or Le Promenade de St. Cloud (Second Suite), the passagework, even the themes could easily have been lifted from a Scarlatti sonata. In the laid-back pieces, such as Le Sophie, La Bien-aimée (First Suite), or La Caressante (Second Suite), however, the influence of Couperin and Rameau is once again manifest.

I first encountered the name Charlotte Mattax (minus the Moersch) about 12 years ago when I reviewed her excellent CD of Friedemann Bach sonatas, also on the Centaur label and still available. A very busy performer in high demand, she lists multiple recordings, prizes at the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, and collaborations with numerous early-music groups around the globe on her Internet bio. She is currently the harpsichord professor at the University of Illinois–Urbana.

I enjoyed this CD for the most part. The music often requires a high degree of technical accomplishment, but Charlotte Mattax Moersch has the notes securely under her fingers. She knows how to create a grand effect in the showy pieces, and summon the necessary expression for the tender rondeaux. What keeps this CD from being a runaway success, perhaps, is the choice of instrument. The two-manual Blanchet copy by Willard Martin is impressive in the opening Allemande of the First Suite, but there is little modulation or variety in sound after that, even when the registration is pulled back. The instrument’s sound is overly bright and clangy for my taste, but this may have to do in part with microphone placement and the resonant hall in which the recording was made. I would love to hear this music performed on a dark-sounding original Hemsch or Taskin, such as the instruments Christophe Rousset often uses in his recordings.

Recommended for the music and performances, less so for the actual sound of the harpsichord.

FANFARE: Christopher Brodersen
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Works on This Recording

Nouvelles suites de pieces de clavecin by Charles Noblet
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Paris, 1756; France 
Première suite by Charles Noblet
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1757; France 
Deuxième suite by Charles Noblet
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1751; France 

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