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François Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 2
Francois Couperin, Angela Hewitt
François Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 2
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: Francois Couperin, Angela Hewitt
Title: François Couperin: Keyboard Music, Vol. 2
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Hyperion UK
Release Date: 4/13/2004
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: 034571174808

CD Reviews

Couperin's introspective late works
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 09/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This second volume of Francois Couperin's clavier compositions contain his very last works which take on a different tone than found in Volume I. As Ms. Hewitt cites in her excellent liner notes, Couperin's music has always had a element of 'melancholy and mystery' in it, but is much more prominent in his last compositions here and can be foreshadowed in such obscure titles as "The Mysterious One," "The Fatal Dart," or "Wandering Souls." Compared to Vol. I with its lighter, sprightly and dancy tunes, Vol. II contains music of more seriousness, gravity and pensiveness - tinged with pallatable sense of solitude, sadness and even regret that Ms. Hewitt masterfully communicates.

While there are certainly moments of joy (track 4), noble procession and granduer (tracks 1, 12) and even theatrical humor (track 17), the majority of Couperin's last compositions here reveal a diminished optimism for life from a man who had suffered much - and can at times exude an emotional expressivity ahead of its time which is perhaps not unlike Schumann or late Schubert. This sentiment can be most perceived in the magnificant allemande "le Convalescente" (track 13) with its rich harmonic textures, "sighing" motives and descending chromatic scales that seem to express a deep yearning - which Hewitt conveys with a convincing poignancy. So, if Hewitt's first CD of Couperin's earlier works brought out the brightness and gaiety of daytime, some of these later clavier pieces better fit the mood of a rainy night.

It is speculated Couperin was familiar with Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" and encorporated some of its ideas in his music. Perhaps so, since as Couperin matured as a composer, he turned to more "Bach-like" elements in his music: descending chromaticisms, unusual keys like F# minor and complex contrapunctal writing - all of which produces a darker mood and deeper sense of mystery which Angela Hewitt thoughtfully expresses with the gentler shadings of the piano (vs. harpsichord) in these recordings. She sensitively plumbs the complex depths of Couperin's intent and convincingly unveils the ellusive emotional content hiding behind the elegantly-textured French surface. I would say she excels in this capacity to draw out the deepest emotional textures in her readings - whether it be the music of Bach, Ravel or Couperin. But, unlike her Bach music in general, Hewitt overall sticks to a limited dynamic range (probably since Couperin gave strict instructions on tempo, ornamentations, dynamics), only excentuating the dynamics in the most stately, processional pieces. Accordingly, this music makes for more non-intrusive listening enjoyment in a quiet moment.

Along with the first volume, this recording got superb music press reviews. Penguin gave it a top 3/3 stars while ClassicsToday (scored at 9/10) praised Hewitt's convincing and beautiful translaton of Couperin's textures to the piano medium. As there are few other piano recordings to compare to Hewitt's music here to, I can only say that her take on these late works seems well done, capturing the various moods and mannerisms of the French clavier master with a contemplative - yet often striking - effect. Her emotionally-insightful and lyrical-rich style is well suited to Couperin's music, and she plays this music most artistically, poetically and beautifully. The Hyperion sound quality is very good here: clear, crisp, no hiss, and pleasantly but not overly resonant - all of which supports the artist's emphasis on tonal beauty. All-in-all, this is a most interesting and emotionally-compelling recording ... but recommmended after the more-varied Volume I which is a better place for most to start to explore Couperin's clavier music (one reason being that her liner notes in Volume I contain an extensive background on Couperin and his style of music). 5 stars."
Much improved sound quality over Vol. 1
Alan Lekan | 06/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I purchased this album with slight trepidation, as I found the sound quality of Hewitt's first volume of Couperin keyboard music to be lacking (dull piano, muddy sound), even though the music was extraodinarily beautiful. Happily, this second volume has both beautiful music, and much improved sound (I can actually distinguish the notes!). In fact, the sound quality is first rate, crisp and clear. I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoyed the first volume, and also anyone who enjoys Bach keyboard music. Hewitt's technique is flawless, and her musicality is second to none."