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Briefly Noted: Vinikour's Rameau

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J.-P. Rameau, Complete Harpischord Works, J. Vinikour
(2 CDs)
(released on June 26, 2012)
DSL-92154 | 156'44"
The harpsichord played by Christophe Rousset in a concert at the Library of Congress earlier this month was built by Thomas and Barbara Wolf in 2005. It is a copy of a 1707 instrument created in Paris by Nicolas Dumont (hidden in an estate's granary, where it survived the French revolution), commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, where it now resides. Anyone enchanted by its sound at the Library of Congress can hear it again on this recent release of the complete harpsichord oeuvre of Jean-Philippe Rameau, recorded by Jory Vinikour. Our ears have been generally delighted by our contact with Vinikour, especially his fine recording of the Handel suites from a few years ago. His new complete Rameau disc is in the same category, one to add to our list of highly esteemed Rameau recordings. This disc even had the rare distinction, for a harpsichord recording, of being nominated for a Grammy this year, an honor it did not ultimately receive (not that anyone should care about the Grammy Awards). In general, Vinikour plays with pleasing variety, never satisfied with purely mechanical grind or simple repetition, making diverting changes in registration, ornamentation, and phrasing on the repeats. Dances have an infectious rhythmic impulse, like the brilliant sparkle of the gigue of the A minor suite (Premier Livre) and the gigues en rondeau of the E minor suite (Pièces de clavecin), while character pieces are often quirky vignettes (the chirpy Rappel des oiseaux and the manic, herky-jerky La Poule). The harpsichord has all sorts of surprises in it, drawn out by Vinikour (the tour de force of Balbastre's arrangement of the overture to Rameau's Pigmalion is the most striking example) much more than Rousset, who intentionally kept the palette limited when he played it.

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