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Hyperion Records

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The Music Lesson by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806)
Louvre, Paris / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67597
Recording details: June 2006
Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy
Produced by Ludger Böckenhoff
Engineered by Ludger Böckenhoff
Release date: January 2007
Total duration: 21 minutes 28 seconds

'She is, of course, a master pianist with the kind of refined finger technique and musical sensibility that can bring to Baroque music all the clarity of line and texture it needs … there is some wonderfully tender music-making' (Gramophone)

'There is something about Angela Hewitt's playing of these three substantial suites which leaves the listener entirely convinced that the piano is as capable as any early 18th-century instrument of realising Rameau's intentions. Indeed, in less extrovert descriptive pieces such as the G minor Suite's gently melancholy Les Triolets, it enhances the music's tender expressiveness without sounding at all anachronistic. On the other hand, the crispness and clarity of Hewitt's tone, the sensitivity of her touch and the exquisite precision of her ornaments mean that the clucking hen in La Poule, and the gloriously spontaneous-sounding efflorescence of birdsong in Le Rappel des oiseaux (from the G minor and E minor Suites respectively) are as characterful as any connoisseur of Baroque keyboard playing could wish for. Dance movements are equally well served, from the nobility and grandeur of the A minor Suite's Courante with its sonorous spread chords, to the E minor's charming pair of lyrical rather than sprightly Gigues. Every piece is the epitome of Parisian elegance' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This release has come as something of a revelation … Hewitt's digital dexterity is by now very well known. What is interesting here is the way in which she deploys her fingers (and her musicianship) in the service of Rameau's particular idiom … after listening to this disc, I almost couldn't believe I had experienced what it contains. I felt like keeping the music, and Hewitt's performances, in my mind and ear, while also wanting to recapture them in physical sound' (International Record Review)

'Hewitt clearly relishes the colour and rhythmic energy of these dance sequences; her performances have a wonderfully fluid stylishness, with scrupulous ornamentation that never seems self-consciously correct, and they are founded upon a willingness to use the full tonal resources of a modern concert grand in a way that seems to make utterly irrelevant any question of what is historically or musicologically 'correct' in playing this music' (The Guardian)

'Hewitt, performing on a favoured Fazioli piano, is on top form in these three keyboard suites by Rameau … speeds are steady, rhythms crisp and real singing tunes emerge from the harmonic weft … this interpretative level is maintained throughout the CD. The year is off to a flyer' (The Times)

'This magnificent disc of three of his immensely attractive keyboard suites should help to enlighten us. Angela Hewitt responds to them with a combination of directness and delicacy that is irresistible. Rhythms are vital, rubato is subtle, yet never draws attention to itself, the abundant ornamentation flowers with brilliant naturalness, and her masterly touch persuades you that the piano is the perfect instrument to realise Rameau’s richly coloured music' (The Sunday Times)

'Although she is using a modern piano here, Hewitt has such a light touch to her interpretation that one never loses the sense of the delicacy of the original instrument … Hewitt's technique is impeccable throughout and her musical taste is as delightful as one expect from Gramophone's 2006 Artist of the Year' (HMV Choice)

'I was quite taken aback by the sheer beauty of Angela Hewitt's new CD of three of his harpsichord suites, played on a magnificent Fazioli piano … I gained sheer pleasure from listening to this Hyperion release—beautiful sound and beautiful music' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'The duelling bird chirrups of Le rappel des oiseaux … are carried off splendidly, as is La Poule … moreover, where in such pieces the punishing finger gymnastics of Rameau's ornamentations and trills can so easily descend into a typewriterish rattle, here they sparkle with energy and easy agility. Hewitt often draws a vibrant, remarkably harpsichord-like sound from her instrument…she is always an impressive pianist and this disc is a welcome addition to the meagre Rameau catalogue' (Pianist)

'Few things sound quite as lovely as baroque keyboard music played on the modern piano, particular when the music is as exquisite as Rameau's and the pianist as exquisite as Angela Hewitt. Having already released several spectacular performances of Bach's keyboard masterworks, she now turns her attention to the music of 18th-century France's premier keyboard composer, with similarly ravishing results. Essential' (CD Hotlist, USA)

'For Rameau on the piano, Angela Hewitt proves just as gorgeous in her realizations as Tzimon Barto on Ondine, but with a million times the intelligence, stylistic awareness, and taste. Helped by her Fazioli concert grand's bright edge, Hewitt demonstrates that the nooks and crannies of Rameau's ornamentation not only work on the piano but also benefit from the instrument's capacity for dynamic nuances. Hewitt's varied articulation and tonal shading arise from the music's dance origins and are never 'pianistic' for their own sake. Sometimes Hewitt may taper a phrase to slightly precious effect or time a cadence with just a smidgen of archness, but her glorious rhythmic sense and crisply centered trills and mordents offer vivid compensation … all told, this is the finest Rameau piano disc since Marcelle Meyer's classic 1953 cycle, and I look forward to more. As usual, Hewitt's annotations are well researched and reader-friendly, while Hyperion's engineering is vivid and detailed' (ClassicsToday.com)

'There is a gleam to Angela Hewitt's sound that takes up Rameau's keyboard pieces, perhaps the ultimate harpsichord music, and sells them with considerable noble persuasiveness on the modern piano … Ms Hewitt delights in this music's energy, and her love of its peacock displays of flourish and ornament are nearly irresistible … like her Bach, her Rameau recordings demonstrate a fastidious heeding of the composer’s intent, with meticulous ornamentation and articulation' (The New York Times)

'She is undoubtedly a master pianist, gifted with a natural refined finger technique and musical sensibility that can bring to the baroque style, the clarity of texture and line it needs to make it sound opulently embellished. In these renditions, she admirably harnesses all the ornamentations, and none are shirked. Her contrapuntal understanding is never amiss, and where warranted, she plays with a tenderness that is almost beyond fragility' (Classical.net)

'This attractive programme … shares the qualities that have made her such an acclaimed interpreter of music of that period, although she has proved equally perceptive in later repertoire … she plays a piano rather than the harpsichord for which the music was originally written, but succeeds in conveying the authentic feel and much of the intricate ornamentation of the music … her insightful understanding of the music combines with a characteristically elegant but energised touch at the keyboard in compelling fashion' (The Inverness Courier)

'La saine musicalité d'Angela Hewitt nous enchante. Ce discours lumineux, ce toucher liquide, cette humilité sans mollesse devant le texte, ce soin maniaque dans l'exécution d'ornements toujours périlleux au piano, dénotent une intimité non feinte … cette pianiste accomplie sait son métier et le pratique avec honnêteté. Les couleurs sont jolies et une certaine profondeur de champ se discerne … Rameau composait avec des sons charnels et des sensations intimes, et non avec de désuets et évanescents effluves' (Diapason, France)

Suite in E minor
composer
Pièces de clavecin, 1724, revised 1731

Other recordings available for download
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)   November 2014 Release
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Following the collection of 1706, Rameau did not publish any more solo harpsichord music until the Pièces de clavecin of 1724. Containing two groups (most likely intended as suites), each centred on a different tonality, this publication shows a more mature composer who has clearly found his own voice. The Suite in E minor opens with a lofty Allemande, a piece that at first seems indebted to the older style until Rameau introduces a second theme with widely spaced intervals. This musical non sequitur, following the stepwise motion of the opening bars, creates an effect of eccentric opulence as Rameau suddenly, mid-phrase, shifts the melodic activity to a higher register, infusing the piece with a splendid vocal quality. The following Courante takes a more humble tone, with occasional moments of wit. Dispensing with the usual sarabande, Rameau goes straight into a pair of Gigues. The first is in the minor mode with a plaintive quality, which contrasts with the triumphal mood of the major-key second Gigue. Both are in rondeau form, and the second one sees Rameau introducing a variety of contrasting characters in the alternating couplets. This is the kind of music that transforms the double-manual harpsichord into a wellspring of colour and timbre.

Rameau introduces an imitation of nature in Le rappel des oiseaux (roughly translated as ‘The conference of the birds’). This piece was most likely inspired by Rameau’s friendship with the Jesuit Père Castel, who discussed with the composer the phenomenon and study of birdsong. We would be misguided to regard this (or La poule, from the G minor Suite) as some sort of silly warbling. There is a clear narrative thread, particularly evident in the second half where we hear the wings slowly losing energy and folding inwards as the birds fall asleep. It is all so wonderfully fetching, and I cannot help but think of the great medieval Sufi text of the same title (which has no relation to Rameau): ‘… rise up and play / Those liquid notes that steal men’s hearts away’.

There follows a triptych of vigorous Rigaudons followed by the glowing calm of the Musette en rondeau. This serene dance suggests a trio of old peasant ladies acting out the half-forgotten dances of their youth to the distant tones of a bagpipe being played in the hills. Then comes the dance of the young peasants with a rousing Tambourin—not a modern tambourine, but a pipe and tabor. It was this short movement that apparently inspired a little girl named Wanda Landowska to take up the cause of Baroque music. The last piece of the set, La villageoise, is a rondeau followed by a variation in running semiquavers. I like to imagine that this vignette depicts Rameau visiting the surrounding countryside of his hometown of Dijon, spying on a young peasant girl walking in the meadows. She is graceful, innocent, and all the more alluring as she hasn’t the faintest notion of her own quiet power. In the semiquavers I hear Rameau’s love for this girl and for the old days as he rides back to Paris. As in Dvořák’s ‘Dumky’ Piano Trio, Op 90, the composer observes the simple beauty and youth of times past, and the music only hints at what must be a deeper longing.

from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014


Other albums featuring this work
'Rameau: Pièces de clavecin' (CDA68071/2)
Rameau: Pièces de clavecin
Pre-order CD by post £20.00 CDA68071/2  2CDs 3 November 2014 Release  
'Rameau: Keyboard Suites' (SACDA67597)
Rameau: Keyboard Suites
This album is not yet available for download SACDA67597  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  

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