Hyperion Records

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

'Rameau: Keyboard Suites' (CDA67597)
Rameau: Keyboard Suites
'Rameau: Keyboard Suites' (SACDA67597)
Rameau: Keyboard Suites
This album is not yet available for download 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 Suite in G minor is made up almost entirely of pièces de caractère. The set opens with Les tricotets, a capricious reference to the swift and nimble movement of hands engaged in knitting. The perfumed tones of L’indifferente give way to the theatrical steps of the two Menuets which Rameau later recycled in his Castor and Pollux (1737). Then comes La poule, yet another of Rameau’s pieces that survived into the Romantic period as a bon-bon for the piano; it seems to have been played with particular aplomb by Louis Diémer, the teacher of Alfred Cortot. La poule also enjoyed some renown in an orchestral transcription by Respighi in his Gli uccelli (later used as the title music of the BBC quiz show Going for a song). The pervading quality of tragedy is difficult to ignore here as the repeated quavers and fiendish semiquavers riddled with mordents and trills suggest a pursuit of some kind—perhaps our barnyard friend is being tracked by a hawk or some other kind of predator?

Les triolets takes its name from a genre of French poetry which by Rameau’s day had already become quite archaic. There is no discernible connection between this piece and the poetic form, but I have always imagined it to depict the discovery of old love letters in the attic of one’s grandparents, so sweet is the quality of nostalgia—and so fleeting, for in the closing bars of the petite reprise we hear the past crumbling like old paper in our hands. Les sauvages represents impressions of two Huron Indians sent from French Canada in the 1720s who performed at the Théâtre italien in Paris to a large crowd of curious observers. The unwieldy contour of the principal theme, based on bizarre leaps, transmits the quality of naïveté ascribed by eighteenth-century Europeans to anyone they considered to be ‘noble savages’. Rameau goes from the exotic to the esoteric in the following piece, L’enharmonique, which derives its name, as Rameau explains in the preface to the collection, from the enharmonic spelling of certain notes and chords which form the basis for striking chromatic modulations. Always certain to justify his musical decisions, Rameau argues that ‘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’—a clear reference to the use of a circular temperament of some kind. The concluding L’egiptienne (not L’Égyptienne as it appears in some modern editions) portrays the wild mystery of a gypsy girl. Crossed-hand imitative gestures with descending arpeggios create a cascade of sound at once powerful and capricious. She is the darker, sultrier, and much more fun counterpart to Debussy’s Girl with the flaxen hair.

from notes by Mahan Esfahani © 2014

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