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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rameau on the Piano, 5 Feb 2008
Robin Friedman (Washington, D.C. United States) - See all my reviews
The great French composer Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1683-1760) was a contemporary of Bach, Handel, and Scarlatti, but his music remains less-known than that of these masters. Rameau wrote a treatise on harmony and, after the age of 50, a long series of operas. He composed music for the keyboard at three periods of his life, early works in 1706, followed by suites composed in 1724 and revised in 1731, and a latter group of suites in 1729-1730. This recording includes Rameau's suite in E minor, from 1724 and the final two suites from 1729 in G and A minor.

Rameau's keyboard music was composed for the harpsichord. I wanted to hear this recording of Rameau on the piano by Angela Hewitt because I love Rameau and have been greatly impressed by Ms. Hewitt. I had ambitions of trying to learn some Rameau myself on the piano (I don't play the harpsichord) and wanted to hear it beautifully played. And I wanted to compare the music as performed on the two instruments.

As my fellow Amazon reviewers have noted, this reading on the piano does not replace Rameau on the harpsichord. The earlier instrument has a timbre, a sway, and a linearity that the piano cannot duplicate. With that qualification at the outset, this remains a wonderful recording. When one plays music of this era on the piano, -- Scarlatti, for example, -- it is crucial to remember that the piano is not a harpsichord and that the music must be interpreted using the resources available on the piano rather than attempting to make the piano sound like a harpsichord. Hewitt does so masterfully in her performance of Rameau. She plays with a fluid, legato touch that would be difficult to duplicate on the harpsichord. Equally important, she uses the full dynamic range of the piano to interpret the music in a way that would not be possible on the harpsichord. She uses the pedal lightly and she is able to bring the ever-present and difficult ornamentation in this music to life on the piano. This recording consists of beautiful music-making and offers Rameau in an idiomatic and revelatory reading that should not be faulted simply because it is performed on a modern instrument. Rameau himself noted explicity that many of his harpsichord pieces, such as the chamber-music "Pieces de Clavecin" could be performed by various combinations of instruments, or by a solo instrument. He would have adored Ms. Hewitt.

Rameau's keyboard music is a combination of the dance music of the earlier French baroque together with various character or genre pieces that were also used extensively by Couperin. The earliest work on this recording, the suite in E minor includes a variety of French dance music, including an allemande, courante, gugue,rigadoun, and a tender and lyrical musette. The dance selections also feature a famous Tamborin, a rhythmic dance that would have been performed as a solo by a dancer with tamborine in hand. The genre pieces include "La rappel des oiseaux" which depicts a convocation of birdshe " and a conluding piece "La villagoise" , a flowing, quiet work in the form of a rondeau.

The remaining two suites include more genre music. The suite in g minor features a work called "La Poule" (no relation to the Haydn symphony with this name) which depicts a contrast between agression and sadness and the poetic "Les triolets". The g minor suite also includes a harmonically daring piece called "L'enharmonique") in which Rameau shows, in a slow, meditative work, how one note on the keyboard can be interpreted alternatively as the basis for two separate keys (c-sharp and d-flat). "Les Sauvages" is Rameau's interpretation of a dance performed by American Indians who had performed in Paris, and the suite concludes with "L'egiptienne" which has been described by one critic as displaying "le lyrisme furieux."

The final work on this CD, the suite in A minor combines the best of dance and genre pieces. Its dance highlights include a lengthy, complex opening allemande. The genre pieces include a Scarlatti-like piece with much hand-crossing, "The three hands", together with two contrasting portraits of women, "Fanfarinette" with its charm and lightness and "La Triomphante." The A minor suite concludes with an extended gavotte and series of variations (doubles) which are in the style of Handel and which take the listener from a simple lyrical theme to music of ever-expanding power and force.

Angela Hewitt wrote the liner notes for this album. This recording includes beautiful pianism and compelling readings of Rameau.

Robin Friedman Comment
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real beauty, 14 Jan 2013
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rameau: Keyboard Suites (Audio CD)
I think this is a terrific disc. Rameau's music is wonderful - full of energy, melody and variety - and Angela Hewitt does it proud. As others here have noted, Rameau on the piano is a different experience from Rameau on the harpsichord, but for me it is a wonderful experience when the piano is this well played.

As with her magnificent Bach recordings, Hewitt brings a flawless technique, deep scholarship and an obvious love of the music to this disc. She judges tempi and ornamentation perfectly to my ears, giving the music exactly the right feel and she uses the expressive capabilities of the piano to bring out the music's qualities without ever imposing flashy tricks or inappropriate sentiment on it. It is a joy from start to finish and I never tire of listening to it.

I love my wonderful set of Rameau on the harpsichord by Christophe Rousset and this certainly doesn't replace it, but it complements it beautifully. The recorded sound is (as always from Hyperion) excellent and the notes and presentation are very good and I recommend this very warmly - it's a beauty.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rameau: Keyboard Suites, 30 Sep 2011
This review is from: Rameau: Keyboard Suites (Audio CD)
Masterly playing by Angela Hewitt. There are three of Rameau's keyboard suites,abundant with ornamentation,which the pianist makes sound so natural.As the composer used his keyboaed as a sustaining instrument,these pieces lend themselves well to the modern piano.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Delicate French music for the keyboard, 31 May 2012
SA Brain (London UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rameau: Keyboard Suites (Audio CD)
Beautifully controlled playing by Angela Hewitt on an instrument(piano) of fine tone and other aural qualities. She does real justice to the music of a difficult and widely disliked person. A man whose music was him " His whole heart and sole were in his harpsichord;once he had closed it there was no one there"
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Rameau: Keyboard Suites
Rameau: Keyboard Suites by Angela Hewitt (Audio CD - 2007)
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