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Stephen Churley (England)
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Rebel - Sonatas for Violins and Bass
Rebel - Sonatas for Violins and Bass
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Rebel CD on the market, 6 Mar 2012
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I already have Andrew Manze's recording of eight of Rebel's 1713 violin sonatas. It is a sensitive performance. But I think this CD from Amandine Beyer and L'Assemblee des Honnestes Curieux (what a mouthful!) is even better. Once you get past the name of the group (named after one brought together in 1641 by Chambonnieres) it's clear to me these French musicians bring a natural confidence and boldness in French baroque rhetoric that is not quite realised by Andrew Manze, who is just a little too decorous. Perhaps that's why I found his disc became rather samey as it went on and I questioned the quality of the music. I don't now. These are some of the best violin sonatas of the early French baroque. Les Curieux play two of the solo sonatas from 1713 (nos. 5 and 6) which are also on the Manze disc. But they also play four trio sonatas from Rebel's 1712 publication 'Recueil de douze Sonates a deux et a trois parties avec la basse chiffree' (nos. 3, 5, 7 and 11). These are played by Les Curieux on two violins, bass viol, theorbo and harpsichord. They are strong, inventive works, not afraid to use dissonance for emotional affect, especially No.7 which is entitled 'Tombeau de Monsieur de Lully' and has a particularly beautiful grave opening movement which is repeated at the end of the work and marked 'Les regrets'. Strongly recommended.


L Couperin: Harpsichord suites /Sempé
L Couperin: Harpsichord suites /Sempé
Price: £15.16

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very exciting playing, 6 Mar 2012
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I think this is the best single disc of Louis Couperin's harpsichord music currently available. Skip Sempe knows this music inside out and plays with a confidence and improvisatory style that no other harpsichordist today dare risk. No one has played the unmeasured preludes as quickly and with such rhapsodic freedom which to my ears makes total sense. It is a well-filled and well-programmed disc (unlike Sempe's Rameau disc which I have also reviewed) and the harpsichord (a fine rich instrument made by Bruce Kennedy after a French original) is beautifully recorded. My only slight criticism is that Sempe occasionally sacrifices grandeur for excitement in some of the longer slower pieces. But I would place this disc above the recital by Glenn Wilson by a short margin.


Schenck: Il Giardano Armonico - 12 trio sonatas Op 3 /La Suave Melodia
Schenck: Il Giardano Armonico - 12 trio sonatas Op 3 /La Suave Melodia
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £23.44

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth exploring, 6 Mar 2012
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The only extant manuscript copy of these sonatas was presumed lost during the Second World War, but Pieter Dirksen (the leader of La Suave Melodia) located a copy only a few years ago. So this recording is a world first. I already have Schenck's 12 sonatas for two bass viols, Le Nymphe di Rheno op 8, in the excellent performance on Naxos by Les Voix Humaines. Whilst his op 8 is enjoyable well crafted music, two whole discs of duets for two bass viols has to be taken in fairly small doses. However, the 12 trio sonatas of Schenk's op 3, Il Giardino Armonico, are more interesting and varied fare. They are played very well by La Suave Melodia which consists of two violins, gamba, theorbo, and harpsichord or organ as appropriate. Most of the sonatas are quite short (around 5 minutes) and follow the Sonata Chiesa form (slow fast slow fast). But three sonatas are each around 10 minutes long and much more elaborate. If you like the chamber works of Buxtehude and Pachelbel you are very likely to enjoy these works which have a similar flavour about them. Recommended.


Louis Couperin: Tombeau de M. de Blancrocher
Louis Couperin: Tombeau de M. de Blancrocher
Price: £6.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain even if you have other performances, 5 Mar 2012
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Louis Couperin was a genius. He is the most original and distinctive French composer for the harpsichord in the 17th century. I already own his complete keyboard works played by Davitt Moroney but his music can take different interpretations, and having a carefully planned recital designed for a single CD makes for satisfying listening. I enjoyed this CD very much. Glenn Wilson is particularly good in the grander movements and the harpsichord is rich and resonant. I'd say that along with Skip Sempe's disc this is the best single disc of Louis Couperin currently available. Sempe is particularly fine in the Preludes non mesures which he plays faster and more confidently than anyone else I have heard. But sometimes he sacrifices a little grandeur for excitement in the slower numbers. I would also recommend Alan Curtis' long-deleted recital which came out on Archive Production, if you can find it. He seems to me to strike the perfect balance.


Marais: Pieces de viole
Marais: Pieces de viole
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strongly recommended, 4 Mar 2012
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This review is from: Marais: Pieces de viole (Audio CD)
This 2-CD set of Marais's viol music is particularly useful as two thirds of it is from Book 3, the rest being from Book 2 with a handful from Book 4. The only other recording of a substantial number of pieces from Book 3 is Jordi Savall's but that is now only available as part of a 5-CD set. Jerome Hantai is a strong player, more robust in style than Savall, but to my ears equally effective. The recording is very good. This set is excellent value for money.


Rameau: La Pantomime; Pieces de Clavecin (Skip Sempe / Olivier Fortin) Plus bonus DVD
Rameau: La Pantomime; Pieces de Clavecin (Skip Sempe / Olivier Fortin) Plus bonus DVD
Price: £12.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great playing, dreadful programming, 4 Mar 2012
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I already have Rameau's complete harpsichord works played very well by Kenneth Gilbert and Jan-Pieter Belder but after some thought I decided to take a chance on this disc because I admire Skip Sempe's playing so much. Perhaps more than any other harpsichordist around today he is so totally inside the particular rhetorique of the French baroque that he can take interpretative risks that shed new light on the music. Usually to my ears they pay off but even when he goes a bit 'over the top' the results are never less than fascinating.

Whereas piano music has had its great interpreters over the years, it is harder to think of harpsichordists who break new ground in interpretation. I think the pioneers are Landowska (1920-50s), Dart (50-60s), Kirkpatrick (50s-80s), Leonhardt (60s-2012), Gilbert (70s-90s) and I would include Skip Sempe as the next generation in this illustrious list.

So to anyone who has the complete Rameau I would strongly recommend they hear this disc of selections. The playing is stunning, the harpsichords are very fine and the recording is excellent. The group of pieces from Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts work very well on two harpsichords, and Sempe and his colleague Olivier Fortin are as one in their interpretative approach.

But now the down side. Why is the disc only 58 minutes long? There is room for another 20 minutes of music which could have included at least one more of the three-movement Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts. Since these are CONCERTS of three movements they make sense when played as a complete concert. I cannot see any justification for playing La Coulicam, La Livri (from the Premier Concert) and then instead of Le Vezinet an arrangement of the Air pour les Esclaves Africains from Les Indes Galantes. The disc ends with La Forqueray and La Cupis (from the Cinquieme Concert) followed not by La Marais as Rameau intended but by La Pantomime (the first piece from the Quatrieme Concert). This is really irritating programming. Is it supposed to be some kind of joke given the CDs title?

As a bonus there is a DVD of Sempe playing three pieces not included on the disc: Armand-Louis Couperin's La Cheron, Chambonnieres' Sarabande, and Royer's La Marche des Scythes. There is also footage of Sempe and Fortin playing two pieces which are already on the CD. Would it not have been more of a bonus to have them playing something else?

So I give this 5 stars for performance but only 1 star for programming and value for money (yes that low because the label Paradizo is Sempe's own and so he would have been responsible for the programming) averaging out at 3 stars. I would still recommend this disc but only if you can get it at around half the recommended price (as I did).


Richard Jones: Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord, 1732
Richard Jones: Sets of Lessons for the Harpsichord, 1732
Price: £23.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A discovery, 14 Feb 2012
This is a fantastic set. If you like Handel's harpsichord suites you are bound to like this. The quality of the music is quite astounding and the performances are exciting. To my ears Richard Jones was a better composer of harpsichord suites than any of his English contemporaries - better than Arne, Chilcot, Croft, Nares. Only Handel's suites bear comparison. This set deserves a wide audience and is another feather in Mitzi Meyerson's cap. She is producing some of the most imaginative and daring harpsichord recordings around today.


Componimenti Musicali Per Il Cembalo
Componimenti Musicali Per Il Cembalo
Offered by TOP-MUSIC-UK
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A discovery, 14 Feb 2012
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I thoroughly agree that this set is well worth exploring. The music is individual, imaginative and quite quirky in a good way, there being such an eclectic mix of French, German and English styles. Anyone who likes Handel's harpsichord suites should try this. In fact the booklet lists no less than 16 compositions by Handel with borrowing from these suites by Muffat! The performance and sound are excellent. Another great issue from Mitzi Meyerson.


Love is Strange /Le Poème Harmonique · Dumestre
Love is Strange /Le Poème Harmonique · Dumestre

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars French performers who know how to play English music, 14 Feb 2012
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I can't think of a CD of English Renaissance music for multiple plucked instruments that is more enjoyable than this one. And the players are French! They have created a real programme that is a joy from beginning to end and play it with gusto as well as the required sensitivity.

I am intrigued why only 1 in 3 people found this review helpful.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2014 5:40 PM GMT


La Sultanne
La Sultanne
Offered by MMT-UK
Price: £8.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different interpretation worth getting to know, 14 Feb 2012
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This review is from: La Sultanne (Audio CD)
I bought this principally for the Pieces des Violes of 1728. Initially I wasn't convinced by the playing but listening again I have revised my view. Whilst this performance is not as suave or well-recorded as the wonderful version by Philippe Pierlot on Mirare, it pushes the idea of what constitutes baroque French rhetoric in a new and exciting direction. There is an edginess which may be a little disconcerting at first but it does work. I wouldn't want this as my only performance of these works but it does show what a range of interpretations this music can take. Couperin sounds more like Forqueray than Marais here. Thankfully gone are the days where baroque music was churned out like a sausage machine. The trio sonatas La Sultanne and La Superbe also receive highly vital performances from Capriccio Stravagante. My main quibble is that the recording makes the instruments sound somewhat distant and hard-edged, but in its way it suits the performances.


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