Notes and Editorial Reviews
Having been recently impressed by the young French harpsichordist Christophe Rousset's recording of Rameau's keyboard pieces (12/91), I approached this new issue with confident anticipation; and it proved to be wholly justified, since Rousset brings to Bach's music the same lucidity and feeling for well turned and well articulated phrases which characterized his Rameau. Technically, Rousset is an exceptionally secure player with a sharp ear for detail and the ability to project it to his audience. Perhaps what I like as much as anything in his playing is a freedom from selfconscious mannerisms which, for whatever reasons they may be present, can soon become a major irritant to a listener, especially on repeated hearing. Rousset's Italian
Concerto is a straightforward, uncluttered reading with notably transparent textures and possessing a commendably modest virtuosity. This is not at all to say that the performance lacks subtlety but that virtually Rousset's entire technical and interpretative arsenal is placed at the service of the music with no quarter being given to exaggerated or misplaced gestures. It is, in short, a delicately poised performance with nicely judged tempos. I felt this especially in the Andante middle movement which moves at a graceful and relaxed pace allowing the music to breathe deeply; but the finale is pleasingly shaped too, with a rhetorical clarity and a taut but not rigid rhythmic pulse. It is true that few artists turn in bad performances of this justly popular piece but, equally, a wholly satisfying one is a scarce commodity. Rousset achieves an interpretation which is likely to satisfy readers for a considerable period of time.
The other great work in Part Two of Bach's Clavier-Übung provides a quite different example of Bach's consummate skill in transferring orchestral forms to the keyboard. This time it is not a concerto but a French-style orchestral suite, the Overture in B minor, which is translated to the two-manual harpsichord. Rousset points up the contrasts between the occasional character of the overture itself and that of the succeeding dances with conviction and a feeling for poetry. The fugue of the overture is splendidly done with every detail in place and this extends to the remaining movements too, such as the concluding "Echo" where Bach's own effective dynamics are scrupulously observed.
The Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue is treated thoughtfully by Rousset; I have heard more technically dazzling performances than this but few that have made greater sense of Bach's harmonically broad concept. Four Duettos, which closely correspond with Bach's better-known Two-Part Inventions, but which nevertheless were not specifically designated to the harpsichord, round off an impressive and satisfying recital. Recorded sound is admirably clear and ideally resonant, though I felt that some of the instrument's brightness was not quite picked up by the balance. The harpsichord by Henri Hemsch was built in Paris in 1751 and the print of Bach in the frontispiece of the booklet was engraved in Leipzig by August Weger in the middle of the last century. A fine issue.
– Gramophone [May 1992] Read less
Works on This Recording
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord)
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany
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