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Jean-Henry D'ANGLEBERT (1628 - 1691): "Suites pour clavecin"

Laurent Stewart, harpsichord

rec: Oct 27 - 31, 2008, Lyon, CNSM (Salle Varèse)
ZigZag Territoires - ZZT 090501 (© 2009) (74'21")

Suite in D; Suite in G; Suite in g minor

Jean-Henry d'Anglebert was one of the main representatives of the French harpsichord school. He was probably a pupil of Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, who is considered its founder.

His first official position in Paris was that of organist (1660), and through marriage he became related to another organist, François Roberday, who used a theme by d'Anglebert in his Fugues et Caprices. In 1662 he became ordinaire de la musique de la chambre du roi pour le clavecin. The only publication of his keyboard works were the Pièces de clavecin which were printed in 1689. They were dedicated to the Princesse de Conti, legitimated daughter of Louis XIV and Mlle de la Vallière, for whom he composed most of his harpsichord music. Apparently his Pièces de clavecin were valued highly, since a relatively large number of copies have survived.

The pieces are divided into four groups according to key: G major and g minor, D major and d minor. It is left to the performer to make a choice and put suites together according to his wishes. The disadvantage of this practice is that as many recordings of d'Anglebert's harpsichord pieces may exist - and there are quite a number on the market - there is no really complete recording as far as I know. Even the recent two-disc set by Elizabeth Farr doesn't cover the whole oeuvre of d'Anglebert.

Laurent Stewart has made his own choice. He has taken pieces in three of the four keys and grouped them into suites. They all begin with a prélude non mesuré which is followed by a largely identical sequence of dance movements: allemande, courante - with either a double (Suites in G and in d minor) or a courante II (Suite in g minor), a sarabande, a gigue and a gaillarde. The Suite in G ends with a chaconne rondeau, the Suite in g minor with a passacaille. The Suite in d minor has two additional movements: gavotte and menuet.

Overall Laurent Stewart delivers very good performances. The three préludes non mesurés are very well played, in an appropriate improvisatory manner. The sarabandes are also coming off beautifully, in particular the 'sarabande grave' from the Suite in d minor. The 'chaconne rondeau' from the Suite in G and even more the passacaille from the Suite in g minor which closes this disc are brilliantly played. I am less satisfied with the allemandes and courantes of the Suite in G and in the Suite in d minor. According to the programme notes the allemandes are "full of majesty, richly decorated and slow in tempo", whereas the courantes are "more rapid". But in these two suites they differ too little in tempo: the allemandes are a bit too fast, the courantes too slow. The contrast between allemande and courante in the Suite in g minor is more satisfying.

Laurent Stewart plays a fine instrument, a copy of a Joannes Ruckers, with a petit ravalement as so many Flemish instruments in France. It is known that d'Anglebert himself owned an instrument by Ruckers, so this is the right choice. It also has been recorded well, with the microphones not too close to the instrument but close enough to allow the listener to hear all the details.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

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