Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is richly expressive music by a composer with a finely developed feeling for melody, played by a harpsichordist who has mastered the style.
I suppose there must must have been discs in the past entirely devoted to the harpsichord music of Chambonnières but just at the moment I cannot think of a single one. Chambonniêres was born in 1601 and is generally recognized as being the founder of the French harpsichord school. That is not at all to say, however, that his collections provide us with the earliest examples; but he did teach almost all the great French harpsichord composers of the seventeenth century, above all Louis Couperin, D'Anglebert and Lebêgue. Chambonnières cultivated and
developed a style in harpsichord writing akin to that of the lutenist's style brisC or, in other words, a broken, arpeggiated texture. By so doing he was able to create an illusion of linear, horizontal writing. To a varied extent and with varying degrees of success, performer apply the principle to repertory of the following century in order to highlight or enhance the linear texture.
The young American harpsichordist Skip Sempé has mastered the art of the style brisé in a convincing and affecting way. He plays with authority and with insight to the inherent resonances contained in Chambonnières's writing. This is richly expressive music by a composer with a finely developed feeling for melody. The pieces, by the way, are drawn from the First and Second Books and from four manuscript collections. Chambonnières was widely and lavishly praised by his contemporaries and successors and, on the strength of these pieces in Sempé's hands, encomiums past and present are fully justified. If we place this music alongside that of Louis Couperin, for instance, we should judge it less adventurous harmonically than that of his illustrious pupil. On the other hand I sometimes find in it a greater warmth of feeling and no less eloquent in its expressive nobility on the one hand (Sarabandes, Chaconne, Pavanne, Paschalia) and lively, poetic treatment of dance measures on the other. Sempé understands all this very well and perhaps almost for the first time I am hearing an artist who conveys to me the enormous talent of this composer. Sempe has chosen his programme with care, illustrating the formal and expressive variety in Chambonnières. In five of the pieces, three of them sarabandes, he is supported by a theorbo continuo played by Brian Feehan. Sempé explains his reasons for this in the accompanying booklet. Certainly the resulting sound is effective and beautiful, adding a new resonant dimension.
Sempé ends his recital with what is perhaps the finest of all tributes to the composer, the Tombeau de M. de Chanibonnières by d'Anglebert. This is an affectionate touch setting the seal on an outstanding disc. The late seventeenth-century harpsichord, a Flemish one, is recorded a little too closely for my ears, but the balance is sympathetic, picking up the radiant character of the instrument. Strongly recommended.
-- Gramophone [4/1993]
reviewing the original release, DHM 77210
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