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Bach / Christophe Rousset


Release Date: 02/23/2010 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 196   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian BachGottfried H. StölzelGeorg Philipp TelemannJohann Christoph Richter
Performer:  Christophe Rousset
Number of Discs: 6 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"By means of a cardboard outer case with no new release number assigned, Ambroisie has created a budget reissue six-CD set out of three original two-CD sets of Bach recordings by renowned harpsichordist Christophe Rousset. The original release dates were 2003 (English Suites), 2004 (French Suites), and 2005 (the Klavierbüchlein ). Of these, only the English Suites have previously been covered in Fanfare (28:1), where Brian Robins gave them a mixed review, with expressions of disappointment. By contrast, Patrick Rucker referred in passing to the Rousset set of the French Suites as “superb” in his glowing review Read more of a set on the Arts label by Francesco Cera in 32:6, while Laura Rónai referred to them as “slightly icy yet elegant” in a somewhat negative review of the Pieter-Jan Belder set on Brilliant Classics in 31:2. There are no reviews of any sets of the Klavierbüchlein in the Fanfare Archive.



Rousset has been more active recently as a conductor of his Baroque ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques, than as a solo harpsichordist, but in both capacities he tends to elicit strong opinions, both positive and negative. This is particularly the case with respect to his performances of Bach. Admirers find his playing colorful, vibrant, energetic, exciting, and imaginative, a bracing tonic to traditional performances of Bach’s works that are overly reverent, cautious, staid, rigid, and colorless. Critics find him too flamboyant, given to flashy effects, excessive ornamentation, and overly fast tempi that do not allow the music to breathe and slight the more profound and meditative aspects of Bach in favor of showy virtuosity. At least both sides agree that he is not dull; but which side is right?


Having listened through this set, I can see some justice in both views, but in the main I come down on the side of Rousset’s admirers. First, he employs an astonishingly wide array of tonal colors, more varied than I have ever heard from any other player. This is particularly in evidence in the Klavierbüchlein ; in the suites he favors a more uniform approach. For me, this is overall one of the major attractions of this set, but there are points (see below) where it becomes a distraction and draws attention to itself rather than serving the music.


Second, there is his varied use of registration; his sound is uncommonly rich and resonant, as far removed from Beecham’s “two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a hailstorm” as one can possibly imagine. An extremely close recording further accentuates the already considerable reverberance. Robins complained that this combination “leads to a tendency for important contrapuntal detail to be blurred”; I personally found this less of a problem than he did, but his point is well taken, and others might prefer a considerably lighter registration with fewer coloristic effects and a more distant recorded acoustic.


Third, there are Rousset’s choices of tempo. These are generally on the faster side, but by no means rushed or excessive (here I simply disagree with Robins); I find they provide a welcome verve and exhilaration and banish all fustian stuffiness. A comparison with several other sets of the suites found comparable choices of tempo for both any given movement, and for individual suites as wholes, by several other performers. I suspect that Rousset may seem faster because of his concerted choice of tempi, registration, and rhythmic inflection.


Fourth, there is Rousset’s distinctive approach to rhythm and ornamentation. He eschews a strictly metrical approach (I do not mean that invidiously) for one with a subtle plasticity, with very slight elongation of one note followed by compensatory shortening of another one following shortly thereafter. More peculiar is Rousset’s habit in triple time of invariably making the elongation and shortening on the second and sixth notes of a six-note phrase, and a tendency for the right hand fractionally to anticipate the left on the beat. Fortunately this is not exaggerated or done demonstratively—indeed, it is almost imperceptible—so I do not find it mannered or distracting, but it will not appeal to those who prefer their Bach neat. The same applies to Rousset’s choice of ornamentations in the repeats (all observed, to my knowledge). I tend to be a minimalist in this regard, but I find his choices generally apt; given that this is an especially subjective area of preference, others may reasonably disagree.


Where I do have some reservations is with Rousset’s traversal of the Klavierbüchlein ; here his critics justly find occasions for their objections. The first 11 tracks on CD 1, BWV 846a–857, are drawn from the preludes ( sans the fugues) of Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier , albeit ordered in a somewhat different sequence. The opening BWV 846a on the first CD is played with a gorgeous, almost bell-like sonority; but the succeeding BWV 847 is aggressively attacked with almost violent ferocity and use of an abrasive registration. A more moderate approach is restored with the succeeding BWV 851 and 850, only to have BWV 855a forcibly pummeled, with chords pounded out by jackhammer blows. The next four works receive lovely performances, but then BWV 853 suffers from exaggerated, edgy attacks on its opening chords and markedly stilted rhythm throughout. And so it goes; the goodly majority of the pieces are well performed, but in those of a particularly extroverted or dramatic character Rousset’s judgment simply fails him; showmanship takes over and necessary restraint is wanting.


Rousset is fortunate in having access to uncommonly fine instruments. For the English and French Suites he uses a Ruckers instrument dating from 1632 and restored in 1787; no details are provided for that used in the Klavierbüchlein set. The program notes are rather minimal, and the English ones in the set of the French suites are marred by several egregious typographical errors where letters and portions of entire words have gone missing.


I trust that the foregoing gives Fanfare readers sufficient details for determining if Rousset’s approach to Bach will be to their individual tastes or not. Despite some reservations about the Klavierbüchlein , I would give this set a strong recommendation for some of the most attractive and invigorating Bach harpsichord playing presently available on disc, especially at its budget price. For a complete Klavierbüchlein there is apparently only one alternative, the Hänssler set with Joseph Payne playing its numbers variously on harpsichord, cembalo, and organ. Considering only performances on harpsichord for the English and French Suites, excellent alternatives for the former that all take a more traditional approach include Blandine Rannou on Zig-Zag (a 2004 Want List selection by Rónai; see her complete review in 27:5), Gustav Leonhardt on Virgin Classics (recommended by Robins, but omitting many repeats), and Alan Curtis on Apex (from the complete Bach series on Teldec), the latter also at a budget price. For the French Suites, there is again Rannou on Zig-Zag and the aforementioned Cera (commended by Rucker in 32:6). I found Rannou particularly attractive in the latter, but as with Rousset the recorded sound is highly reverberant."

FANFARE: James A. Altena
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Works on This Recording

1.
English Suite no 1 in A major, BWV 806 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
2.
English Suite no 2 in A minor, BWV 807 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
3.
English Suite no 3 in G minor, BWV 808 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
4.
English Suite no 4 in F major, BWV 809 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
5.
English Suite no 5 in E minor, BWV 810 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
6.
English Suite no 6 in D minor, BWV 811 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715; Weimar, Germany 
7.
French Suite no 1 in D minor, BWV 812 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
8.
French Suite no 2 in C minor, BWV 813 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
9.
French Suite no 3 in B minor, BWV 814 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
10.
French Suite no 4 in E flat major, BWV 815 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
11.
French Suite no 5 in G major, BWV 816 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
12.
French Suite no 6 in E major, BWV 817 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
13.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 1 in C, BWV 846 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
14.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 2 in C minor, BWV 847 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
15.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 6 in D minor, BWV 851 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
16.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 5 in D major, BWV 850 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
17.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 10 in E minor, BWV 855 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
18.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 9 in E major, BWV 854 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
19.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 11 in F major, BWV 856 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
20.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 3 in C sharp major, BWV 848 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
21.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 4 in C sharp minor, BWV 849 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
22.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 8 in E flat minor, BWV 853 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
23.
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue no 12 in F minor, BWV 857 - Prelude by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1722; Cöthen, Germany 
24.
Prelude in C major, BWV 924 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
25.
Prelude in D minor, BWV 926 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
26.
Praeambulum in F major, BWV 927 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
27.
Praeambulum in G minor, BWV 930 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
28.
Prelude in F major, BWV 928 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
29.
Two-Part Invention no 1 in C major, BWV 772 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
30.
Two-Part Invention no 4 in D minor, BWV 775 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
31.
Two-Part Invention no 7 in E minor, BWV 778 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
32.
Two-Part Invention no 8 in F major, BWV 779 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
33.
Two-Part Invention no 10 in G major, BWV 781 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
34.
Two-Part Invention no 15 in B minor, BWV 786 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
35.
Two-Part Invention no 14 in B flat major, BWV 785 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
36.
Two-Part Invention no 12 in A major, BWV 783 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
37.
Two-Part Invention no 9 in F minor, BWV 780 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
38.
Two-Part Invention no 6 in E major, BWV 777 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
39.
Two-Part Invention no 5 in E flat major, BWV 776 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
40.
Two-Part Invention no 3 in D major, BWV 774 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
41.
Two-Part Invention no 2 in C minor, BWV 773 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
42.
Two-Part Invention no 1 in C major, BWV 772 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
43.
Three-Part Invention no 4 in D minor, BWV 790 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
44.
Three-Part Invention no 7 in E minor, BWV 793 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
45.
Three-Part Invention no 8 in F major, BWV 794 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
46.
Three-Part Invention no 10 in G major, BWV 796 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
47.
Three-Part Invention no 13 in A minor, BWV 799 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
48.
Three-Part Invention no 15 in B minor, BWV 801 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
49.
Three-Part Invention no 14 in B flat major, BWV 800 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
50.
Three-Part Invention no 12 in A major, BWV 798 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
51.
Three-Part Invention no 11 in G minor, BWV 797 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
52.
Three-Part Invention no 9 in F minor, BWV 795 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
53.
Three-Part Invention no 6 in E major, BWV 792 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
54.
Three-Part Invention no 5 in E flat major, BWV 791 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
55.
Three-Part Invention no 3 in D major, BWV 789 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
56.
Three-Part Invention no 2 in C minor, BWV 788 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
57.
Prelude in D major, BWV 925 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
58.
Prelude in E minor, BWV 932 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
59.
Prelude in A minor, BWV 931 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
60.
Applicatio in C major, BWV 994 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
61.
Allemande for Keyboard in G minor, BWV 836 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720-1722; Leipzig, Germany 
62.
Allemande for Keyboard in G minor, BWV 837 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Leipzig, Germany 
63.
Fugue in C major, BWV 953 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1723 
64.
Minuet in G major, BWV 841 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Leipzig, Germany 
65.
Minuet in G minor, BWV 842 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Leipzig, Germany 
66.
Minuet in G major, BWV 843 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Leipzig, Germany 
67.
Bass sketch in g minor by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
68.
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 691 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
69.
Jesu meine Freude, BWV 753 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
70.
Partita for Keyboard in G minor "di Signore Steltzeln" by Gottfried H. Stölzel
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Cöthen, Germany 
71.
Trio in G minor, BWV 929: Menuet by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: after 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
72.
Suite in A major [fragment] by Georg Philipp Telemann
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: Germany 
73.
Pieces for Harpsichord: Courante by Johann Christoph Richter
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
74.
Pieces for Harpsichord: Allemande by Johann Christoph Richter
Performer:  Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 

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