Jory Vinikour: The complete
harpsichord works of Rameau
Chicago-born, Paris-based harpsichordist Jory Vinikour is well-known to Cleveland audiences, having recently played Bach's Goldberg Variations at the Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival and made two recordings of Bach sonatas with Cleveland Orchestra principal flutist Joshua Smith. His latest recording, on the Sono Luminus label, shoehorns all of Jean-Philippe Rameau's harpsichord works onto a pair of CD's — over two and a half hours worth of varied and delightful music by one of the most inventive composers of the French baroque period.
The greater part of the album is devoted to Rameau's five suites, published in 1706 (Premier Livre de Pièces de Clavicin, Suite in a minor), 1724 (Pièces de Clavessin, Suites in e minor and D) and 1726-1727 (Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin, Suites in a minor and G). A tiny, half-minute Menuet from his Method of 1724, La Dauphine (1747), the Rameau-attributed Les Petits Marteaux, Rameau's five transcriptions of his own Pièces de Clavecin en Concert (1741) and a tribute piece, Claude Balbastre's transcription of Rameau's Ouverture to Pigmalion round out the oeuvre and apparently leave no stone unturned.
Complete recordings of any composer's output run the risk of dutifully including the dross alongside the gold, but Rameau was such a master at creating engaging melodies and unconventional harmonies — decanting new wine into the old bottles of French dance suites — that the listener will suffer few moments of ennui during the 51 tracks of this album.
Jory Vinikour's sure sense of pacing and touch only add to the vitality and freshness of Rameau's music. He knows just where to flex tempos, add and subtract those pesky French notes inégales, turn eighth notes into Lombardic rhythms and vary his articulation in the service of the music. He has a splendid partner in a 2005 instrument by Thomas and Barbara Wolf of The Plains, Virginia, modeled after a 1707 instrument by Nicolas Dumont which escaped the Terror by hiding in the granary of a chateau. The harpsichord sounds rich and colorful, its registers individual in tone but contributing to a thrilling tutti on a number of occasions (it's tuned at A=392 hz, which may disorient some listeners following along with a score). In its rare appearances, the lute stop makes a welcome change in timbre.
This album will be a fine addition to the recording collections of harpsichordists, pianists, Rameau fans and French baroque aficionados in general. Pianists who encountered Rameau's Tambourin or La Poule early in their careers will enjoy Vinikour's masterful version of those standards, and all keyboardists will cheer at his stunning performances of Les Cyclopes and La Dauphine while applauding — on the other side of the emotional scale — his elegant and wistful playing of Les Tendres Plaintes and Musette en rondeau. Vinikour's rhythm-bending account of Le Rappel des Oiseaux is a model of expressive restraint.
Balbastre's adaptation of the Pigmalion overture, with its exciting barrages of repeated chords, is a tour de force and provides a fitting conclusion to a fine celebration of the keyboard legacy of Jean-Philipe Rameau.
The recording, engineered, mixed and mastered by Daniel Shores is full of presence. The harpsichord is closely miked without picking up distracting mechanical sounds. The extensive program notes by Jory Vinikour are lively and informative.
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Published on ClevelandClassical.com August 21, 2012
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