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18th Century Flemish Harpsichord Music - Demeyere

18th Century Flemish Harpsichord Music - Demeyere

Challenge Classics  CC 72528

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Josse Boutmy, Dieudonné Raick, F.I. de Boeck, Ferdinand Staes, Charles-Joseph van Helmont, Natalis Vander Borcht, Anon.

Ewald Demeyere (harpsichord)


Eighteenth-century Flemish harpsichord music today is mostly identified with the Pieces de clavecin of 1731 by Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703-1741). Although this collection, consisting of two major harpsichord suites, undoubtedly forms the high point in the genre, I want this CD to show that Fiocco was certainly not the only good Flemish harpsichord composer. (For those interested in Fioccos harpsichord works, I refer to my complete recording of his Pieces de clavecin (ACCENT 24176, 2007)). The repertoire of this CD is the result of an artistic research project I carried out into eighteenth-century Flemish harpsichord music, based on the rich collection of the Antwerp Conservatory library.

Demeyere shows us that there is more to Flemisch harpsichord music than only Fiocco;s music and this cd is a unique statement for that and takes us into the wealth of other compositions of the eighteenth century.

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Review by John Miller - February 6, 2014

Ewald Demeyere, a successor to Jos van Immerseele as Professor of Harpsichord at the Royal Conservertoire of Antwerp, Belgium, has been studying the rich collection of Eighteenth Century manuscripts of harpsichord music in his Institute's library. This disc features some of the best material culled from rarely heard Eighteenth Century Flemish composers, recorded by a cooperative of Turtle Records and Challenge Records. Demeyere's distillation of many years of study is summarised in the inset notes, an essay of some 14 pages (English only). The progress of harpsichord composing through the century and provide helpful and sometimes amusing accounts of the selected composers and notes on the featured pieces.

As well as Demeyere's academic prowess, he is a master of harpsichord performance, and for this album uses a splendid and world-famous original instrument by Joannes Daniel Dulcken, housed in the Vleeshuis Museum in Antwerp, where Northstar's recording also took place. Karel Moens offers interesting notes about how Dulcken (as a successor to the well-known Ruckers) achieved his renowned timbres. He also points out how clumsy and heavy the sound of new harpsichords was in their re-appearance around the start of the Twentieth Century, built by piano makers for players such as Wanda Landowski, whose instruments were huge but made little sound. Later in the Twentieth Century, HIP-informed harpsichord makers were inspired to make copies, particularly of Dulcken's instruments, and also Neupert's. Audience respect for the sound of these replicas revolutionised the rebirth of keyboard music of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The beautifully decorated Dulcken in this recording has a single manual, but both four foot and eight foot registers.

Demeyere's programme consists of mainly of Suites, collections of dance music very typical of the era. Normally these are in French Style, but the Flemish composers also used Italian forms, mixing the movement titles with both languages. This combination is most interesting, and as well as some delightfully naive tunes, there are some exuberant toe-tapping Minuets and Rondos, interpolated by deeply-felt and expressive Sarabandes, several of which are much longer than Sarabandes from contemporary French masters. An early Sonata even suggests the later works of young Haydn. The wide variety of textures, tunes and styles makes for a heady mix of music making, making it easy to listen to the whole 74:20 in one session. Demeyere's playing is never academic, but captures the energy, elegance, and often the humour, of these short pieces, garlanded as they are with classic French and Italian ornaments, which spring with great clarity from his nimble fingers.

Northstar's usual DSD recording places the listener in the first few rows of the stalls, as it were, but there are few or no sounds from the harpsichord's mechanism. The amazingly focussed instrument seems positively tangible, and every nuance of harmonics and resonance in this lovely old harpsichord is captured to make a very special listening experience, given the appropriate bloom of a barely-resonant museum location.

Lovers of harpsichord music should not miss this; it is an intriguing counterfoil for the many discs of French Eighteenth Century on the market, elegantly and authoritatively executed and realistically recorded.

Copyright © 2014 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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