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Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 1
Francois Couperin, Angela Hewitt
Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 1
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (25) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Francois Couperin, Angela Hewitt
Title: Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 1
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hyperion UK
Original Release Date: 1/1/2003
Re-Release Date: 5/13/2003
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Suites, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750), Classical (c.1770-1830)
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 034571174402

CD Reviews

French Delight
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 06/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Francois 'le grand' Couperin was the most talented and prolific musician from the many generations of the French Couperin family of musicians. He is best known for his 220 keyboard pieces, organized in 27 groups (ordres). Couperin's keyboard music is in the style of the Court of Louis XIV and the 'French manner' of the 18th century influenced by Lully: noble and ornate, fluent and graceful, sometimes stately yet often charming, and above all, delightfully pleasant to the ear. Harsh notes or dissonance are not part of the courtly style. One unusual aspect of Couperin's pieces is the rather strange and often-mysterious titles given to each work ("The Gnat"' "The Turbulent One", "The Limping Fellow" and so on). While the origins of these strange titles are not often clear, one thing they suggest is that the music to follow will be unique, varied and unusually descriptive - which turns out to be the case.

Couperin's music is filled with 'grace notes' (trills) in virtually every bar - part of which purely defined this French courtly style and part as a means to sustain the notes on the early claviers prior to the invention of the sustaining pedel. Of course - like Scarlatti's many keyboard sonatas - this music was originally created for the harpsichord, but (right or wrong) some people just don't like the sound of the harpsichord (especially in an entire 70+ minute CD) and prefer their Baroque solo keyboard music in modern piano tones. Couperin's music sounds ideal for the harpsichord, but luckily for those who gravitate to the piano, Angela Hewitt plays this music most naturally and elegantly. The variety of textures and pianistic effects Hewitt summons marvelously communicate the many moods of Couperin. This first volume is the best place to begin to explore these works out of the three CD's from Hyperion - one reason being Hewitt's eleven pages of background notes that give an excellent introduction to the life and music of Couperin.

While Couperin's music seems to include these 'grace notes' in just about every bar (perhaps something of an "acquired taste"), Angela Hewitt does a beautiful job to artistically integrate them into the overall tapestry and flow of the music. Such music as Couperin fits well with Miss Hewitt's rather sweet, nuanced and lyrical style. Probably the most notable example of this is pieces of pure innocence and delight like "le Tic-Toc-Choc" (track 14) where Hewitt's delicate, dancing rhythms and pianistic nuances produces a work of great charm. In such works she takes full advantage of the more nuanced dynamics and shaded colourations of the modern piano to bring out more songful lyricism which fits the underlying expressivity of the compositions.

Contrastingly, in the stately, processional pieces (such as the opening work and especially in the Passacaille at the end - one of Couperin's most monumental harpsichord works), Miss Hewitt accentuates the granduer of such works with convincing effect - albeit finessing her way around the two-manual harpsichord dense writing with one keyboard. Also especially in favor of the piano's subtletries are Couperin's slower, heartfelt movements which Hewitt plays with great affection, lyricism and fluidity. In these she finds their ponderous, emotional core with her soft, nuanced textures (Track 20). And especially in songs like the plaintive "La Verneuille" (Track 9), one can even sense a foreshadowing of "romantic" expressiveness, showing just how much Couperin's inventiveness was ahead of its time.

But, having read the Amazon reviews of both Hewitt Couperin sets, I was hesitant to purchase it because of some comments poor sound quality. But, I was quite happy with both the clarity and resonance and felt the Hyperion engineers created a fitting sound environment for this type of music in particular - although some may not prefer the greater spaciousness of the recording. It's sound environment sounds much like her "French Suites" recordings. Penguin Guide gave this CD (along with Vol. 2) a top 3/3 star rating along with a "Recommended Recording" nod. Similarly, ClassicsToday rated this CD a a perfect 10/10 for Artistry/Sound Quality and said this of the recording:

"Angela Hewitt's first of three projected Couperin releases may well become a paradigm, a reference point for future pianists wishing to explore this repertoire. Anyone who claims that a modern grand's sonority is too heavy or stylistically incongruous for doing justice to Couperin's delicate textures and intricate embellishments simply hasn't heard Hewitt. She's a master of balancing lines against each other so that they stay vibrant and alive at any tempo, scaling dynamics with the utmost subtlety, and timing cadences with perfectly spaced single notes or rolled chords. And I wager that Hewitt's early background as a dancer informs her unerring tempo choices. Hyperion's excellent engineering plus Hewitt's articulate, well-researched annotations enhance this altogether delectable release."

One last thing I liked about this music was that the dynamic range is fairly consistent with not a lot of change from soft to loud - which makes it condusive to nighttime listening. All together, this is a most enjoyable CD that is both highly inventive for its time but also "easy on the ear," as Hewitt is a natural for such music and makes it sound most appealing. Of course, this all assuming you take to this music on piano. I am enjoying this music much more than I thought I would and enthusiastically recommend it as well as Volume II and III. Compositions - 5 stars; Performance - 5 stars; Sound Quality - 4 stars."
Authenticity vs. adaptation
J. Gabrielson | Walnut Creek, Ca USA | 08/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I am a passionate lover of the "historical performance" movement; therefore I was totally surprised by this Hewitt disc. I love Couperin on the harpsichord; so, when I bought the used disc at Amoeba Records in Berkeley , having heard one selection from the disc on the KXPR from Sacramento, I was totally surprised that I really loved Couperin on a modern piano! Several of the pieces had a jazz-like quality to them. I discovered nuances I had never heard before when listening to Couperin on the harpsichord. Having said this, I have a suspicion that not all pianists could achieve what Ms. Hewitt did so well in this disc. This seems to be one instance where adaptation is justified. I plan to get the second volume as well."
An excellent selection of Couperin's keyboard music
Jill Malter | | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is Couperin the way I like it, not on the harpsichord but on the piano. I don't have a harpsichord, but I do have a piano. And yes, I think some harpsichord music does sound better on a piano. Angela Hewitt picked some of Couperin's works that she felt "translated the best to the modern piano" and found the most interesting. And she played them very nicely. Much, much better than I do.

One of my favorite pieces on this album is "Les Maillotins." But there is a problem for Hewitt here. The two hands play the same notes on the harpsichord, but on two different keyboards. This won't work on the piano, and Couperin advises playing the left hand an octave lower or the right hand an octave higher. Hewitt chose the latter option.

I like the album and Hewitt's choice of compositions. And yes, I am glad she included the hypnotic "Les Barricades Misterieuses," which is one of Couperin's most famous pieces.