Christophe Rousset


Born: 1961
Christophe Rousset is one of the finest and most exciting harpsichordists, and as a conductor is a leader in the late twentieth century revival of French Baroque music.

After studying piano as a boy, he became deeply interested in the harpsichord at the age of 13. He studied with Huguette Dreyfus at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and, from 1980 to 1983, with Bob van Asperen at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. He won a special certificate of distinction at the Schola Cantorum and, in 1983, the first prize at the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges.

He began a professional career, in which he rose quickly in the ranks of the world's harpsichordists. He soon appeared at some of the most prestigious early music festivals, including those of Aix-en-Provence, Saintes, Veaune, Utrecht, La Roque d'Anthéron, and Les Printemps des Arts de Nantes.

He recorded for the Decca record label and its early music imprint L'Oiseau-Lyre. His recording of the Piéces de Clavecin of Rameau won the 1992 Gramophone Award for Best Baroque Non-Vocal Release and the Belgian Cecilia Prize.

During this time, as a specialist in Baroque harpsichord he often performed the harpsichord continuo parts in ensemble music. For the most part in the Baroque era, ensembles were led by the harpsichordist. Thus it was natural that Rousset's harpsichord appearances with such established authentic instrument ensembles as La Petite Bande, Musica Antique de Cologne, The Academy of Ancient Music, Il Seminario Musicale, and Les Arts Florisants led him to an interest in leading a Baroque ensemble.

In 1991, he founded such a group, which he named Les Talens Lyrics. This title, meaning "Lyrical Talents," is the name of a 1739 collection of compositions by Jean-Philippe Rameau. He and his group of young Baroque players adopted this name not only because it was snappy and imposed a certain requirement to live up to, but it also indicated their interest in reviving French Baroque music. Moreover, they intended to explore the connections between the distinct national styles of France and the other major European nations of the Baroque era (including England). In particular, Rousset and Les Talens explore the vital interchange of music that took place between France and the Kingdom of Naples. The group is flexible in size. It may amount to as little as five singers and players for a performance of court vocal works, or up to forty in playing opera and oratorio.

An important introduction of Les Talens came in 1993 at the Festival de Beaune, when they performed Scipione by Handel. The same year they presented L'Incoronazione di Poppea of Monteverdi at the Amsterdam Opera. They have also played ballets and operas of Cimarosa, Berutti, de Mondonville. They have recorded Henry Dumont's Motets en Dialogue, Jean-Marie Leclair's trios, Handel's Scipione and Richard the First, Jommelli's Armida Abbandonnata, ouvertures of Rameau, and the soundtrack for the movie Farinelli, which is about one of the leading castrato singers of the Baroque. The Farinelli soundtrack had extraordinary sales for an early music classical release, selling well over 600,000 copies worldwide.

Les Talens Lyriques is intended to track the Neapolitan-Parisian connection up to the time of the emergence of Rossini. In 2000, Rousset moved a step towards that by conducting Mozart's Mitradate at the Opéra National de Lyon.