Jean-Philippe Rameau: Keyboard Works

This disc features pieces from three of the four suites Rameau wrote for the harpsichord. I have selected these to illustrate Rameau’s extraordinary talent in descriptive, innovative and often virtuosic writing, and to show how the piano can enhance the works through singing tone and tonal nuance. Virginia Black

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"..This is early programme music, presenting a broad range of musical vignettes in thoroughly delightful and inexhaustibly inventive fashion. Of Virginia Black’s dexterity and mastery of her instrument, there is no question and she clearly loves and responds empathetically to the music." Ralph Moore MusicWeb

The history of the CRD label, which has already celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, is long and full of recordings that have marked the English musical scene. The objectives are very clear: they work to offer high-quality recordings with music by well-known composers, as well as new versions of well-known works. CRD Records presents a new recording of pianist and harpsichordist Virginia Black, of whom have edited other recordings, of which we want to highlight the rich spectrum of the eighteenth century harpsichord. It is a new interpretation of eighteen pieces of the "Harlequin Pieces" by Jean-Philippe Rameau, the renowned master of Dijon, who composed more than sixty pieces for harpsichords. Virginia Black, after many years working as a harpsichord player, now returns to the piano and, in this compact, offers a unique piano version of Rameau's harpsichord pieces, a selection of which were published yearly 1724 and another selection of those published in 1728.

The nuances are infinitely subtle and, of course, reveal the differences between a harpsichord and a piano. Virginia Black generously generates, in the piano, all its sensitivity, evidencing the flexible and nuanced loudness of the pianistic timbre.
In these pieces of innovative and virtuosic writing, the English pianist combines, with undeniable technical brilliance, an eloquent articulation and remarkable rhythmic flexibility. Virginia Black achieves that the basic elements of his version, singular and distinguished, be a tribute to the music of French Baroque. This album is a new success of the English label CRD. Sonograma Magazine

For her performance on modern piano of music by Rameau, Virginia Black carefully chooses some of the most characterful pieces from the composer’s 1724 and 1728 collections. She plays with energy and a crispness of articulation which makes her performances attractive to those who don’t mind their harpsichord music played on the piano – if I were to be persuaded of the virtues of the piano as a medium for this repertoire, this would be the sort of performance that would do it. However, even with Virginia Black’s expert execution, I found myself yearning for the extra clarity of the harpsichord. Yes, the piano is capable of dynamic variation, but it is clear that performers of the period found other ways to make the music expressive, and (by definition) each note in an ornamental figure rang out clearly making the decoration much more eloquent. I was surprised to read that as Professor of Harpsichord at the RCM Virginia Black prefers the piano as a medium for her Baroque music. I am clearly missing something. Anyway, as I say, her choice of repertoire is impeccable and her playing style sympathetic to her chosen pieces. And maybe some day I will learn to love Baroque keyboard music on the piano – ‘but not yet’, as St Augustine has it. Early Music Review

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