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Balbastre: Pieces De Clavecin (1759) / Yates

Balbastre / Yates,Sophie
Release Date: 02/22/2011 
Label:  Chandos   Catalog #: 777  
Composer:  Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Top of the pile for these Pièces.

Impressed by Sophie Yates’ recording of J.C. Bach and a long-time fan of French baroque/rococo harpsichord music, it didn’t take much to persuade me to try this CD. I had previously known Claude-Bénigne Balbastre through his fine Suites de Noël, and while there are a few recordings of his harpsichord music about it does seem he is still very much in the shadow of names such as Couperin and Rameau. This magnificent recording from Chandos may go some way towards shifting him closer to the mainstream.

Sophie Yates plays a double manual instrument built in 1996 by Andrew Garlick, who also tuned it for this recording. It is a copy of a 1748 French harpsichord
Read more by Jean-Claude Goujon which is now housed in the collection of the Musée de la Musique at the Paris Conservatoire. Not everyone warms to the sound of the harpsichord these days, but this instrument has a rich bass and while clear and detailed in the recorded balance isn’t too sharp in the treble. The articulation of the plucked strings has an even feel, and there is no question of rattling mechanism or unnatural jangle. The acoustic of St George’s in Bristol is perfect: just lively enough to give the instrument an extra layer of richness without taking away any of the crispness of the sound.

As Yates capably describes in her booklet notes, these Pièces de clavecin represent an example of the last flowering of both the harpsichord as an instrument – soon to be taken on and beaten by the fortepiano – and the era of royal patronage which would be overrun by the revolution of 1789. As is typical for music of the period, these are pièces de charactère, each named descriptively or for the personality of a known individual. This provides the necessary contrast within the programme as a whole, for example with delicate two-part writing in something like La Berville sandwiched between the thicker textures and repeated chords of La Lamarck, and the dancing gigue of La Lugeac, which recalls why Balbastre’s rollicking organ works became so popular he had to be forbidden from playing at church services, such were the crowds who turned up to hear him perform. There is a wide variety of styles, from the dances mentioned, via pastoral pieces such as the Air Champêtre of La Castelmore and virtuoso showstoppers such as the incredible La Suzanne. Sophie Yates performs all of these with a sensitive ear for contrast and context, and I defy anyone not instantly allergic to the harpsichord to become bored. The ‘blue note’ dissonance in La Genty is great fun for instance. There is a Mozartean touch in the Alberti bass features of La Bellaud and the opening of La Malesherbe, which takes some surprising harmonic turns with an otherwise almost naively simple Air theme, and then kicks into a ‘bacchanalian whirl’ when you least expect it.

As previously mentioned, competition isn’t particularly hot for this repertoire, and with a recording by Jean-Patrice Brosse on the Pierre Verany label, another on the Claves label by Ursula Duetschler, and Elizabeth Farr on Naxos, there doesn’t seem to be much else around. With such a fine recording and performance, and such a well prepared and sympathetic sounding instrument this disc has to go to the top of the pile as a first choice for these Pièces.

-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La de Caze by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
2. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La d'Héricourt by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
3. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Segur by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
4. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Monmartel ou La Brunoy by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
5. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Boullongne by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Written: by 1759; France 
6. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Castelmore by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
7. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Courteille by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1759; France 
8. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Bellaud by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1759; France 
9. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Lamarck by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
10. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Berville by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
11. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Lugeac by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
12. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Suzanne by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
13. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Genty by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
14. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Malesherbe by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
Period: Classical 
Written: by 1759; France 
15. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Berryer ou La Lamoignon by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
16. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Laporte by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)
17. Pièces de clavecin, Book 1: La Morisseau by Claude-Béninge Balbastre
Performer:  Sophie Yates (Harpsichord)

Sound Samples

Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La de Caze, Ouverture: Fierement et marque, anime
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La d'Hericourt: Noblement, sans lenteur
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Segur, Gavotte: Gracieusement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Monmartel ou La Brunoys: Allegro
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Boullongne: Fierement et marque
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Castelmore, Air Champetre: Loure - Gracieux
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Courteille, Air
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: Le Bellaud: Vivement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Lamarck, Ouverture: Vivement, marque
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Berville, Gavotte: Gracieusement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Lugeac, Giga: Allegro
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Suzanne, Noblement et anime: Gracieusement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Genty, Badine: Gaiement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Malesherbe, Ariette: Gracieuse - Air: Gay
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Berryer ou La Lamoignon, Rondeau: Gracieusement
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Laporte: Allegro, anime
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: La Morisseau, Noblement

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