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Couperin La Paix du Parnasse

Duos and solos played by Lucy Carolan & John Kitchen, harpsichords

Delphian DCD34012 [TT 64:30]

This unique recital of pieces by François Couperin (1668-1733) is played on two similar double-manual harpsichords in the Russell Collection of Early Keyboards (Taskin 1769 and Germans/Taskin 1764/83). These are housed in the same building as the delectable St Cecilia Hall in Edinburgh, where I attended a meeting of the British Clavichord Society and enjoyed the opportunity to play the several historic clavichords in the collection.

La Paix du Parnasse makes for a lively and unusual programme, gathering together from various ordres pieces composed for two keyboards, some of them with different melody lines over the same bass - as if they were transcriptions of trio sonata movements. Lucy Carolan gives a great deal of information about the music and its origins, and speculates about reasons for the existence of the duets, some of which may have been purely commercial to increase sales. Most of the duets are arrangements, save for the opening 'Allemande a deux clavecins' of Ordre No. 9.

The recording seems to make no attempt to differentiate the instruments by stereo, and the players have chosen not to tell us which instrument either of them plays, nor even who takes the solos that are interspersed with the duets, and offer relief from the dense prevailing texture and clatter of two French harpsichords.

I enjoyed it as a novelty, taking one or two at a time of the six groups as arranged on the CD, but for regular listening one harpsichord is enough!

Track Listing
1 Allemande à deux clavecins (Ordre no. 9) [4:03]
2 Solo: L'Evaporée (Ordre no. 15) [1:44]
3 Solo: Le Dodo, ou l’amour au Berceau (Ordre no. 15) [4:18]
4 Muséte de Choisi (Ordre no. 15) [3:14]
5 Muséte de Taverni (Ordre no. 15) [2:17]

La Paix du Parnasse: Sonade en trio
6 Gravement [1:44]
7 Saillie: Vivement [1:36]
8 Rondement [1:43]
9 Vivement [1:46]

10 Solo: Le Rossignol en amour (Ordre no. 14) [3:01]
11 La Julliet (Ordre no. 14) [1:46]
12 Solo: Le Carillon de Cithére (Ordre no. 14) [4:33]
13 Solo: Le Petit-Rien (Ordre no. 14) [1:43]

Concert Royal no. 3 in A
14 Prélude [1:45]
15 Solo: Allemande [2:34]
16 Solo: Courante [2:14]
17 Sarabande grave [3:24]
18 Muzette [2:27]

19 Grande Ritournéle (Concert Royal no. 8) [1:50]
20 Solo: Le Drôle de Corps (Ordre no. 16) [3:23]
21 Solo: La Distraite (Ordre no. 16) [2:34]
22 La Létiville (Ordre no. 16) [1:39]
23 Menuet en Trio (Concert Royal no. 1) [1:18]

La Steinquerque
24 Bruit de Guerre: Gayement [1:27]
25 Air: Lentement [0:55]
26 Gravement [1:02]
27 Legerement [0:56]
28 Mouvement de fanfares [0:27]
29 Lentement [1:19]
30 Gravement [0:26]
31 Gayement [1:12]

© Peter Grahame Woolf