2006-03-09 15:35:29 UTC
explore keyboard music of the 15th to 18th centuries, particularly
outside of the great 1685 trinity - Bach - Handel - Scarlatti.
When I was pretty young, (11 or so), several LPs came into my
possession - recordings of Renaissance and Baroque harpsichord works -
e.g. Rafael Puyana's Golden Age of the Harpsichord, Masterpieces of the
Baroque, Vox's Fitzwilliam Virginal Book with Payne 18th Century
Harpsichord Masterpieces with Luciano Sgrizzi and other such albums.
These recordings left me with the impression that there were hundreds,
if not thousands of equally marvelous works to be discovered and
performed from this era. Having acquired scores of composers like
Louis and Francois Couperin, Francisque, Gaspard leRoux, the
Fitzwilliam, Mulliners, and Lady Neville's Books, (Elizabethan Virginal
Music) - I've come to the solid conclusion that those heavenly albums I
grew up with were the results of painstaking cherrypicking of the best
that each school and each composer had to offer.
Let me give a specific example - the keyboard creations of Louis
Couperin. There are 14 or so suites in total, amounting to about 100
individual pieces or movements. After careful listening I've concluded
that (at least for my tastes and perceptions) there are FOUR works that
rise out of the ordinary:
1. Tombeau de Monsieur Blanchrocher
2. Pavanne in F-Sharp Minor
3. Chaconne in D minor
4. Chaconne in G minor
The plus side is that these are extroardinary works, ahead of their
time harmonically and in the pathos they express - they are the
treasures that make the laborious search worthwhile.
In reading through the 2 thick volumes of the Fitzwilliam collections -
I must admit I find so many of these works (mostly endless variations)
tedious to the extreme, and yet again, there are a few (probably VERY
few) real treasures - timeless in their expression.
On the other hand, the keyboard works of Purcell are of a consistent
quality - I rather like Kuhnau's output, Rameau is consistenly inspired
in his keyboard output - to be honest I find perhaps 30% of Francois
Couperin's "Ordres" to be of any interest and the same with Antonio
Soler who wrote a remarkable Fandango, perhaps 15 or 20 (out of 120)
truly memorable sonatas.
I sometimes wonder when harpsichordists record complete projects (e.g.
the Couperins, Soler, Byrd, Bull) whether they do it because they
sincerely love all these works, or for the intellectual satisfaction of
having achieved some mission (or an impressive sounding entry on their