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D'anglebert: Suites For Harpsichord / Elizabeth Farr

Release Date: 10/28/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570472-73   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Jean-Henri D'Anglebert
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

D’ANGLEBERT Harpsichord Suites: No. 1 in G; No. 2 in g; No. 3 in d; No. 4 in D Elizabeth Farr (hpd) (period instruments) NAXOS 8.570472 (2 CDs: 134:26)

Jean-Henry D’Anglebert (1629–1691) published only one book of his works, all of it for keyboard instruments, in 1689. It quickly became popular, appearing in a second, probably unauthorized edition, engraved in Amsterdam. Aside from the four suites that Farr has recorded here, it contained 15 dance transcriptions from Lully’s operas, four other transcriptions Read more of anonymous origin, five fugues for organ on the same curiously angular subject, a Quatuor sur le Kyrie for organ, and a treatise on basso continuo. Though the composer wrote in his preface that he hoped to furnish at some future date existing works in other keys, they never found their way into print. More music written by D’Anglebert, however, has turned up in an autograph manuscript entitled Rés 89ter . It is believed to have been written largely in the composer’s hand, and includes 76 pieces, 54 of which are his transcriptions of lute music. Nine are earlier versions of his published works; four in C Major, were possibly meant for a second book; while the rest are pieces by Chambonnieres, Louis Couperin, Marin and Richard Marais.

So what Naxos and Farr have provided here is all of D’Anglebert’s original, extant, and known music for harpsichord, minus the four pieces in C Major. It is almost uniformly of substantial quality, favoring polyphonic mastery and fanciful invention in a lute style brisé over the richer vertical textures and descriptive pieces of other, later French Baroque musicians. It also possesses an expressively melancholy intimacy that brings to mind at times François Couperin.

There are other links to Couperin le Grand, as well. The most important for our purposes was their mutual insistence upon notational faithfulness in performance, without changes to tempo, rhythm, or further ornamentation. Couperin wrote as much in the Preface to his first volume: “I have already added all the necessary ornaments, and I have observed the correct vertical alignment of the notes.” James R. Anthony, in turn, remarked about D’Anglebert’s music in his French Baroque Music from Beaujoyeulx to Rameau that “the music is extremely travaillée ,” or worked up in a very detailed fashion. Just how worked up it is can be judged by D’Anglebert’s preface that provided an ornament table with 29 symbols, including some he invented, and many that he employed frequently throughout these pieces. (A copy of this table in Bach’s handwriting survives, indicating that he probably knew D’Anglebert’s work.)

Music as elaborate as this, with its rhetorical flourishes and pauses, could easily become mired in particulars. However, that’s not the case on this recording. Farr is very careful not to lose the forward pulse of the music while phrasing appropriately, as the Allemande in the G-Minor Suite illustrates. Nor does this force her into hectic tempos or rhythmic stiffness. The Courante II in G Minor, for example, shows how she can sustain an almost majestically gliding sense of movement in a piece played on the slow side of adagio (66 bps). Conversely, the Gigue I from the G Major Suite is a fast moderato (116 bps) treated with exceptional metrical flexibility, yet never loses its core dance-like element. It is this knife’s edge balance between rigidity and freeness, clarity of ornamentation and momentum, as much as it is a pursuit of clarity and loving sculpted phrasing that defines Farr’s performance on this release. She does a marvelous job, aided and abetted by a pair of fine instruments crafted by Keith Hill: a fine double manual harpsichord after François Blanchet, and a delicate lute harpsichord created using the description found in Adlung’s posthumously published Musica Mechanica Organoedi (1768).

Though each of these suites has been recorded by one or more harpsichordists other than Farr, I can find no instances of all four available in a single, current release. Byron Schenkman is both vital and distinguished on Centaur 2435, offering the Second Suite and excerpts from both other suites and the lute transcriptions. Céline Frisch is stylish if slightly less relaxed than Farr in the First Suite (minus the Gavotte and Minuet) and the Second on Alpha 74. She has the advantage of offering all five of the fugues, played on the organ, as well as several of the Lully transcriptions and the originals, performed by Café Zimmerman, of which Frisch is a founding member. Neither the Third nor the Fourth Suite is included, however. Barbara Maria Willi offers the First, Third, and Fourth Suites on Musicaphon 56827 (which I have not heard), but foregoes the Second. This makes the current set recommendable even if it weren’t such a delight to hear—which, fortunately, it is.

It only remains to note that the sound on this recording is bright but close, with none of the mechanism noise or over-reverberant hall sounds that sometimes bedevil harpsichord albums. Farr supplies excellent and lengthy notes focusing on the music, while Hill offers some background on both D’Anglebert’s own harpsichord, the instruments we hear, and the practice of ravalement , adding wood to extend either the treble and/or bass of an older instrument.

Full praise to Farr and Naxos for the good they’ve wrought here. Get this if you enjoy French Baroque harpsichord music.

FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

Pičces de clavecin: Suite no 1 in G major by Jean-Henri D'Anglebert
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Lute-harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Pičces de clavecin: Suite no 2 in G minor by Jean-Henri D'Anglebert
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1689; France 
Pičces de clavecin: Suite no 3 in D minor by Jean-Henri D'Anglebert
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Pičces de clavecin: Suite no 4 in D major by Jean-Henri D'Anglebert
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Lute-harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Enchanting and Essential July 10, 2012 By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM) See All My Reviews "This music is enchanting and essential to anybody who is serious about beautiful harpsichord music." Report Abuse
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