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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: 28 minutes 10 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' (

'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' (

'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 No 2 in A minor
Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, circa 1729/30

Other recordings available for download
Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord)   November 2014 Release
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Rameau’s third and final collection of harpsichord music—the Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin of c1729–30—in many ways represents the pinnacle of the ‘international style’ as applied to the art of the French clavecinistes. There is as much Handel and Scarlatti here as there is Couperin and Marchand. One almost gets the sense that Rameau has tired of claveciniste convention and is beginning to see the harpsichord as a substitute for the orchestra in a way that must have shocked his contemporaries.

Like the 1724 volume, this collection also contains two suites. The Suite in A minor opens with a stirring Allemande, a tribute to the good old style. But even here one can hear that special Ramellian wink in the chains of thirds and sixths in the accompanying voices. Once engaged in such flowery discourse Rameau cannot help himself, and he even adds codas with chains of triplets to the cadences in each half. The overall effect is one of noble vocality with a slight tinge of resignation. The quality of grandeur is further underlined in the Courante, in which the running quavers juxtaposed with the sharp rhythms and accents of the original dance surely mean to evoke a blend of French orchestral practice and the art of Italian violin-playing.

The graceful movements of the Sarabande show Rameau as the king of the dance, as he skilfully portrays the elaborate gestures of the dancer with specific indications for the arpeggiation and decoration of chords. It is as if the harpsichordist’s fingers themselves become dancers, maintaining the grand gestures of the feet in balance with the fanciful movements of the dancer’s hands, as was the practice in performing sarabandes. Les trois mains is a bit of a mystery. Is it simply a cheeky depiction of three greatly independent parts on the keyboard? Or can we detect the influence of Domenico Scarlatti, who had visited Paris in 1724? Then there is the term ‘three hands’ used in dancing, specifically in the Scottish strathspey ‘Nora’s Fandango’.

Fanfarinette and La triomphante illustrate Rameau’s mastery of the pièce de caractère. The first is a depiction of someone who feigns bravery (the term is derived from ‘fanfaron’—a braggart); perhaps we can hear this in the fanciful quality of the melody and the runs in the right hand. The second piece is a general evocation of triumph rather than a reference to a specific person; the last couplet has a hint of Rameau the curmudgeon. The A minor Suite closes with the justifiably famous Gavotte with six ‘doubles’, or variations, which has become a warhorse of many a recital programme. The solid, chorale-variation flavour to this piece makes sense when we hear it through the lens of Handel’s eight ‘great’ suites of 1720, a hugely popular collection that appears in bits and pieces in Continental sources and which was certainly known to Rameau. Rameau’s variations are directly based, in fact, on the air and variations from Handel’s D minor Suite. And Handel’s variations are, in turn, elaborations on models by Pachelbel and Zachow. Rameau seems to have been blissfully ignorant of the Germanic and ecclesiastical basis of such a variation style, and in the final three variations he takes a completely different and frankly virtuosic path.

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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