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Armand-louis Couperin: Pieces De Clavecin

Couperin / Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Release Date: 01/28/2014 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 3303   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Armand-Louis Couperin
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

L. COUPERIN La Victoire . Allemande. Courante “La de Croissy.” Les Cacqueteuses. La Grégoire. I’Intrépide. Menuets 1 and 2. L’Arlequine ou La Adam. La Blanchet. La de Boisgelou. La Foucquet. La Sémillante ou La Joly. La Turpin. Gavottes 1 and 2. Menuets 1 and 2. La du Breuil. La Chéron. L’Affligée. L’Enjouée. Les Tendres Sentiments . Rondeau Charlotte Read more Mattax Moersch (hpd) CENTAUR 3303 (77:16)

This program is a collection of keyboard works from Louis Couperin’s Pièces de clavecin , as published by the composer himself in 1751. (The collection also included the suite Les Quatre Nations , not included here presumably because doing so would have necessitated a second CD.) What it doesn’t indicate is that it follows the composer’s perhaps rather curious notion of dividing the collection into works in the key of G ( La Victoire through La Sémillante ou La Joly ) and those in the key of B? ( La Turpin through the final Rondeau.) What was Couperin’s reason for doing this, and is it prudent for performers to adhere to the pieces in their published order, as Charlotte Mattax Moersch does here? The danger, of course, is, if not outright monotony, then at least a lack of contrast. In actuality, the ear does not tire of 46 minutes of G Major (and sometimes Minor) followed by 32 minutes of B? Major (ditto) when the music played within those spans is played with as much nuance as this performer brings to it.

Charlotte Mattax Moersch, who currently teaches at the University of Illinois, studied with Kenneth Gilbert, Gustav Leonhardt, Bob van Asperen, and Albert Fuller, and with a pedigree like that one expects the very best from her. Luckily, this disc lives up to such expectations. This was my first exposure to her playing, and after having heard this disc several times, it is clear to me that she is a world-class performer. She is not a showy and dramatic player, even though there certainly should be room in anyone’s collection for that kind of harpsichord playing as well. Instead, she is quiet and thoughtful—I was about to say “analytical,” although that implies that her playing is cold, which it is not. She interprets this music with sensitivity and intelligence, and is particularly successful in keeping Couperin’s rhythms flexible without distorting them, and without compromising apparent spontaneity. The harpsichord she plays is a modern one (2009) by John Phillips, based on an instrument from 1707 (somewhat before Louis Couperin’s time, but no matter) by Nicolas Dumont. I found it a little too bright for my taste, but your reaction to it might differ.

There is no shortage of recordings of these works, including a few by this performer’s former mentors. I like Leonhardt’s way with this repertory (Philips) even better—and I prefer his instrument’s richer sound—but Charlotte Mattax Moersch is quite satisfying, and I can recommend this recording for those who want to hear this music played with dignity yet with no dearth of imagination.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Pièces de Clavecin, 28 pieces for harpsichord by Armand-Louis Couperin
Performer:  Charlotte Mattax Moersch (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1751 
Venue:  Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center f 
Length: 3 Minutes 21 Secs. 

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