Hyperion Records

Suite in G minor
Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, circa 1729/30

'Rameau: Keyboard Suites' (CDA67597)
Rameau: Keyboard Suites
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67597 
'Rameau: Keyboard Suites' (SACDA67597)
Rameau: Keyboard Suites
SACDA67597  Super-Audio CD — Deleted  
Movement 1: Les tricotets (rondeau)
Track 10 on CDA67597 [1'49]
Track 10 on SACDA67597 [1'49] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 2: L'indifferente
Track 11 on CDA67597 [1'54]
Track 11 on SACDA67597 [1'54] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 3: Menuets I & II
Track 12 on CDA67597 [3'31]
Track 12 on SACDA67597 [3'31] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 4: La poule
Track 13 on CDA67597 [4'53]
Track 13 on SACDA67597 [4'53] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 5: Les triolets
Track 14 on CDA67597 [4'46]
Track 14 on SACDA67597 [4'46] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 6: Les sauvages
Track 15 on CDA67597 [1'53]
Track 15 on SACDA67597 [1'53] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 7: L'enharmonique
Track 16 on CDA67597 [6'49]
Track 16 on SACDA67597 [6'49] Super-Audio CD — Deleted
Movement 8: L'egiptienne
Track 17 on CDA67597 [2'46]
Track 17 on SACDA67597 [2'46] Super-Audio CD — Deleted

Suite in G minor
The first few pieces in the Suite in G minor are innocent enough. Les tricotets was a popular dance in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and a favourite of Henri IV. Presumably the quick movements of the feet, involving both heels and toes, were meant to resemble the nimbleness of knitters (‘tricoter’ means ‘to knit’). The alternation of two and three beats to the bar immediately reminds us of the minuet in Bach’s Fifth Partita—also in G major. L’indifferente (‘The casual lover’) is a minuet, and was a popular title for a character piece (as well as the title of a painting by Watteau, painted some eleven years before this piece was composed). Of the two graceful Menuets that follow, one in the major, one in the minor, the first reappears nine years later in his lyric tragedy Castor et Pollux.

Then comes one of Rameau’s masterpieces, La poule, with the obsessive clucking of the hen (Rameau writes ‘co co co co co coco dai’ under the opening notes). It is pure drama, and, as Cuthbert Girdlestone wrote in his 1957 biography of the composer, ‘has the intensity and singlemindedness of a Racine tragedy, with alternations of hope and despair’. Rameau marks these contrasts with the words fort et doux. It is possible that the first sketches for this piece go back to his early days in Paris when the Jesuit Père Castel discussed with him the bird songs noted in the writings of Athanasius Kircher (1650) and aroused his feelings for depicting nature. The five repeated notes of the theme become hammered-out chords in the right hand towards the end, with the arpeggios transferred to the bass. Observing all of Rameau’s ornamentation requires some quick fingerwork.

The next movement of the suite, Les triolets, calms us down with its poetic melancholy and tenderness. Rameau states in his preface to this collection that it should not be taken fast. It ends with a ‘petite reprise’—a written-out echo of the last few bars. A triolet was a medieval verse form that became popular again in the seventeenth century.

On 10 September 1725 Rameau attended a performance by two Louisiana Indians at one of the theatres of the Fair. Their dancing must have made an impression on him, because he characterized them in the next piece, Les sauvages. As a Canadian I can’t help imagining the colourful displays of our Canadian native people, especially when playing the descending repeated notes of the theme. It became one of Rameau’s most popular works, and he later included it in his opera-ballet Les Indes galantes.

The last two pieces of the suite are also gems. Rameau talks at great length of L’enharmonique in the preface to this collection. An enharmonic change is when, for example, a C sharp becomes a D flat (on the keyboard the same note), which indeed happens in the twelfth bar of the second section. An expressive pause marks the point which, to listeners of Rameau’s day, would have been something quite extraordinary. Rameau states:

The effect experienced in the twelfth bar of the Reprise of the Enharmonique may not perhaps be to everyone’s taste right away; one can nonetheless grow accustomed to it after a little application, and even grow to awareness of all its beauty once the initial aversion, which in this case might result from lack of familiarity, has been overcome. The harmony which creates this effect has by no means been thrown in haphazardly; it is based on logic and has the sanction of Nature herself …

The mood is one of a lament, with poignant chromaticisms and a few contrasting bars where, to alternate with gracieusement (‘gracefully’) Rameau writes hardiment, sans altérer la mesure (‘boldly, without altering the tempo’).

The final movement, L’egiptienne, is inspired by the dance of a gypsy girl, and brings the suite to a brilliant conclusion. In his preface Rameau sensibly warns us not to take the fast pieces too fast, but rather to be more intent upon capturing their correct character. That seems especially apt in the case of this piece.

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2007

Track-specific metadata
Click track numbers opposite to select

Details for SACDA67597 track 13
Movement 4: La poule
Recording date
4 June 2006
Recording venue
Das Kulturzentrum Grand Hotel, Dobbiaco, Italy
Recording producer
Ludger Böckenhoff
Recording engineer
Ludger Böckenhoff
Hyperion usage
  1. Rameau: Keyboard Suites (CDA67597)
    Disc 1 Track 13
    Release date: January 2007
  2. Rameau: Keyboard Suites (SACDA67597)
    Disc 1 Track 13
    Release date: January 2007
    Deletion date: November 2008
    Super-Audio CD — Deleted
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