This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
RAMEAU Pièces de clavecin en concert • Aapo Häkkinen (hpd); Petri Tapio Mattson (vn); Mikko Perkola (vdg) (period instruments) • ALBA 318 (SACD: 66: 25)
Every so often a recording comes out of left field to take me completely by surprise. Such is the case here, a stunningRead more new version of Rameau’s most popular (and only) set of chamber music from a trio of virtually unknown Finnish artists. Harpsichordist Aapo Häkkinen has been mentioned a few times in the pages of Fanfare, mostly as an accompanist, although he does have one solo album, a recording of the Goldberg Variations that Jerry Dubins raved about in Fanfare 33:3. These performers certainly don’t come out of a vacuum; like any modern-day European nation, Finland has been very active for many years in the period instrument/early music arena. The most conspicuous sign of this, perhaps, is the 14-year-old Helsinki Baroque Orchestra; Häkkinen serves as its artistic director.
The five suites of the Pièces de clavecin en concert are Rameau’s own arrangements of some of his most famous harpsichord music, and as such, the performances must center on and be driven by the harpsichordist. Häkkinen clearly is in charge: He adopts tempos that are often faster than the norm, imparting a wonderful freshness and verve to the music, yet amazingly, nothing ever sounds rushed. The string playing is the perfect complement to the keyboard work. Considering that the gambist must play a dual role in this music—as continuo bass to the harpsichord but also as a duet partner in the upper register with the violinist—Mikko Perkola’s contribution is memorable; seldom have both aspects of the part been so well realized or so clearly audible. Violinist Petri Tapio Mattson plays with grace and lovely tone, darting in and out of the musical fabric as needed. About all that’s missing is the optional flûte traversière part that Rameau indicated in about a half-dozen of the slower pieces; had the producers seen fit to include the flute, this recording would have gone straight to the top of my preferred list.
The recorded sound is amazingly clear and realistic, another compelling reason to buy this disc. I’m not quite ready to give up my previous favorite, a Channel Classics SACD with Trevor Pinnock and Rachel Podger. Nor would I want to be without the wonderful Das Alte Werk LP (was it ever released on CD?) that brought together Gustav Leonhardt, the Kuijkens, and Frans Brüggen, a classic if there ever was one.