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<<  -- 2 --  Ron Bierman    COUPERIN SORTED


Given Couperin's expert and detailed writing for harpsichord and McIntyre's considerable knowledge of baroque performance, album notes could have spent more time discussing his predominant use of the piano, an instrument Couperin perhaps never even heard. A harpsichord appears here twice, each time introducing a piece the piano then picks up in a variation. This makes it easy to compare the differences. The harpsichord, as expected, fits the style of music better, but I'm far from a fanatic for historically accurate performance and McIntyre uses the piano's greater sonority and dynamic range effectively. Some of the music sounds positively romantic and The Carillon at Cythera never sounded more realistic [listen -- CD2 track 6, 3:37-4:33]. But did he use the piano because of its greater versatility or primarily because he wanted to make a teacher's point about how Couperin can be adapted?

These CDs will in any event be valuable for piano students. The rewards are more mixed for the average listener. Choice based on difficulty hasn't prevented a nicely varied program that begins with Pastoral and finishes with the rousing Triumph. Many pieces, especially those with a tender mood, are played with passionate affection. Others would benefit from slightly brighter tempos and more sparkle in the ornamentation. There isn't much recorded competition. Pianists do use Couperin transcriptions and these sometimes appear in recorded recitals, but I'm not aware of other piano disks devoted solely to him.

On balance, although the piano has some fine moments, I'd opt for harpsichord. Several excellent multiple CD sets have been issued over the years. Of those currently available, Rousset on Harmonia Mundi is a strong choice.

Copyright © 27 November 2002 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA


François Couperin: 45 Pieces for Piano in order of progressive difficulty

PL 9-0002 (2 CDs) 75'24"/73'10" - TT 148'34" 2000 Palatine Recordings

Ray McIntyre, piano and harpsichord

DISC 1: Pastorale; Mlle de Charolais's Piece; The Bees; The Birth of the Lilies (harpsichord then piano); The Jest; The Trifle; The Little Windmills; Gavotte (2nd order); Sister Monique; Minuet (1st order); Sheepfolds; Canary; Mimi; March of the Grey-clad; The Little Dairy-maids of Bagnolet; Harlequin; Diana; Lord Bersan's Piece; Wandering Shades; Cupid's Fatal Arrows; Reveille; Distraught; The Florentine; Princess Marie; Baubles; Bells; Scintillating Bontemps-Natural Graces; Tender Fanchon; The Flatterer; DISC 2: Second Courante (2nd Order); Pretty Madelon-Sweet Janneton; The Nightingale in Love (harpsichord then piano); The Exquisite Allemande; The Carillon at Cythera; The Favorite, a Chaconne in duple meter; Couperin's Piece; The Convalescent; The Artist; The French Folies or Masquerades; The Old Lords, a solemn Sarabande; The God of Marriage and of Love; Alalanta; Raphael; Triumph





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