1 CD - 426 352-2 - (p) 1989


Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661)
Prélude à l'imitation de Mr. Froberger
6' 59" 1
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Ground "Crown the Altar" in D minor
2' 01" 2

Ground in C minor - Also attributed to William Croft (1678-1727)
3' 05" 3

Suite in D
4' 38" 4
Johann KUHNAU (1660-1722) Biblische Sonate "Jacobs Tod und Begräbnis"
16' 17" 5
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Aria - from "Goldberg Variations" BWV 988

2' 31" 6

Kleine Präludien:

- in C BWV 924, in F BWV 927, in D minor BWV 940, in G minor BWV 929
3' 34" 7

2 Minuets:

- in G BWV Anh. 114, in G minor BWV Anh. 115 - Also attributed to Christian Pezold (1677-1733?)
1' 47" 8

Präludium und Fuge E-dur, BWV 878 - (Wohltemperierte Klavier II, 9)
7' 05" 9
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757) 2 Sonatas in A K. 208 & K. 209

4' 59" 10
Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace ROYER (c.1705-1755) Allemande in C minor

3' 21" 11
Joseph Bodin de BOISMORTIER (1689-1755) La Puce (Pièce en rondeau)
1' 37"
Pierre FÉVRIER (1696-1762/79) La Délectable
4' 02" 13
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764) Le Rappel des Oiseaux

2' 48" 14

Gustav LEONHARDT, Harpsichord (Joel Katzman, amsterdam 1987)


Luogo e data di registrazione
Haarlem (The Netherlands) - Settembre 1988

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Rupert Fäustle

Recording producer
Mike Bremner

Balance & recording engineer

Ko Witteveen

Tape editors

Jan Wesselink | Ko Witteveen

Art direction

George Cramer

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 426 352-2 | 1 CD - durata 65' 59" | (p) 1989 | DDD

Cover Art

Photo: Geert Kooiman


This bird’s-eye view of harpsichord music from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries glances at four countries and illustrates something of the diversity of styles found in that period. The earliest piece here is that by Louis Couperin, uncle of the more famous François but himself a noted keyboard player. He was the first to write improvisatory “unmeasured” preludes (i.e. without any indication of the rhythmic organisation) for the harpsichord, though the form had previously been employed by French lutenists such as Denis Gaultier. Four of these freely rhapsodic preludes of his include a central rhythmic and contrapuntal ricercar - a structure also found in toccatas by Froberger, who had become acquainted with Couperin when he visited Paris in the 1650’s. Despite Couperin’s complimentary title, it is an open question who in fact influenced whom.
The chaconne and passacaglia, both relying on varied repetitions of a short melodic or harmonic phrase, were much favoured by French composers (and greatly developed by Lully in his operas); Purcell in England, who almost certainly knew their work, was a master of the kindred form of the ground bass, which he frequently employed with a new flexibility, the length of his melodic phrases masking that of the pattern in the bass. This characteristic is seen in the D minor Ground, which is a transcription of a mezzo-soprano solo in the 1693 birthday ode for Queen Mary, “Celebrate the festival”: the four-bar ground appears 13 times, twice straying from the basic key to F major and Aminor respectively. The C minor piece (probably by Purcell though once thought to be by Croft) has twelve appearances of a ground lasting three-and-a-half bars: a quasivocal phrase, repeated with variants, alternates with a constant ritornello. The little Suite in D - of which the Almand is the only substantial movement - is the third of a set of eight published after the composer’s death by his widow.
The “Biblical” Sonatas composed in 1700 by Kuhnau, Bach’s predecessor as Kantor of the Thomaskirche in Leipzig and a gifted individual in other fields besides that of music (he was a brilliant linguist, an active lawyer and a satirical novelist), were his last keyboard works. He had been the first to apply the term “sonata” - without thereby implying any specific structural principle - to music for the harpsichord alone; but programmatic sonatas for other instruments were already in existence, as for instance Biber’s “Mystery” Sonatas for violin and continuo, 20 years earlier. Kuhnau’s sixth sonata has five movements. The grief of Jacob’s sons, depicted in slow 4/4 time, is lightened by his paternal blessing (three 3/4 passages): they reflect on the consequences of his death in a four-part fugue whose subject rises sequentially. The lengthy journey from Egypt to Canaan to bury him is suggested by a ceaselessly trudging quaver bass, and its weariness by the numerous right-hand suspensions. These are also featured in the following movement, with a repeated-note figure imitated between the voices. The sonata ends in a calmly flowing triple-time movement representing the survivors’ feelings of consolation.
Bach’s family all acknowledged that they owed their musical education to him; and much of his keyboard music was composed for their benefit and for his numerous pupils. What later was taken as the theme of the “Goldberg” Variations - itself forming part of his “Clavier-Übung” (Keyboard Practice), an instructional title he had taken over from Kuhnau - was originally a sarabande in the 1725 notebook for his wife Anna Magdalena (which also contains, written in her hand, the two little minuets which may or may not be by him); three of the small preludes played here are from another notebook, five years earlier in date, prepared for the tuition of his eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, then aged 9. Of these, those in C and in F are for finger fluency and evenness, that in G minor is a minuet. BWV 940 in D minor, from a different set of five preludes written at about the same time, is an exercise in part-playing. The E major Prelude from the second book of the “Welltempered Clavier” is also contrapuntal but in binary form, like a movement from a suite: the grave four-part Fugue has as subject a mere conventional tag, but this is treated in various forms of stretto.
Though born in Naples of a Sicilian family, Domenico Scarlatti spent the latter, and more productive, half of his life in the Iberian peninsula. As music master to the Infanta Maria Barbara, later queen of Spain, he there wrote the over 500 keyboard sonatas, of infinite vitality and variety, on which his fame rests. Some of these were apparently designed to be played in pairs: one such pair comprises the present two A major pieces, the first with a florid melodic line over a firm marching step, the second a bright, springy jota.
The remaining pieces are all by French clavecinistes active in Paris. The dramatic Allemande by Royer (music master to Louis XV’s children, and later director of the Concert Spirituel) displays his fondness for taut dotted rhythms and for rushing tirades (sweeping scale upbeats); “La puce” by Boismortier, his senior by some 20 years, is a rondeau which graphically and amusingly illustrates its title; “La délectable” by Février (organist at the Sainte-Chapelle and the Jacobin convent) is a stately, gracious, richtextured character piece in binary form; and Rameau’s “Rappel des oiseaux” is delicately programmatic, with repeated bird-calls, twitterings and suggestions of fluttering wings.
© 1989 Lionel Salter