This recording presents an interesting mix of old and new which is not always a happy combination, but here is very fine and certainly well worth repeated listening. The harpsichord used is based on a two-manual instrument in German style; it was built by Henk van Schevikhoven in 1997, and has a lovely rich, warm and sonorous sound which is well recorded. François Couperin (1668-1733) is represented by the Cinquième prelude, Les idées heureuses, L’exquise and Les Pavots . Assi Karttunen is a fine player with a great sense of colour and shading, and in the works by Couperin her use of notes inégales is beautifully varied and appropriate, and her ornamentation is exquisite. It is interesting that this harpsichord based on a German instrument sounds so very French here – more voluptuous in tone than I would expect from this type of harpsichord.
Graham Lynch (b. 1957) writes interestingly and intelligently for the harpsichord, using many different textures, and also using the broken sustained patterns of the style brisé very effectively. It is refreshing to hear contemporary music which is so well attuned to the character of the harpsichord. In his comments on the five-movement composition, Beyond the River God , Lynch says ‘Out of all the harpsichord music that I’ve written, Beyond the River God is the work that comes closest to having a dialogue with the French clavecinistes of the 18 th century, especially François Couperin.’
Lynch uses rondeau form in the first, third and last movements; these are interspersed with movements named Couplet I and II. Broken chord patterns in Rondeau I are followed by sustained melodic line patterns in Couplet I, with more vigorous and lively writing in Rondeau II, slow and languorous music in Couplet II, and rich textures and energetic patterns in Rondeau III. This makes for a satisfying balance.
Perhaps the most interesting of the other works by Lynch is the set of four short pieces entitled Petenera. Lynch comments: ‘In Petenera the title of each piece comes from the poems of Lorca. The modal musical language draws, in a distant way, on the music of Andalucia.’ This is particularly evident in the second piece, The Six Strings , reflecting the guitar music of Spain, while in the fourth, De Profundis , there are rich dissonant chords reminiscent of Scarlatti and, of course, flamenco playing. The closing work on the disc is Lynch’s Secret Prelude, a brief piece using broken chord patterns, and neatly rounding off this reflective and thoughtful programme. As someone who has often found contemporary harpsichord music rather unsatisfying, this disc is a refreshing one, and I would certainly recommend it strongly.
Looking forward to the release of this organ and harpsichord album later this year. Wouldn't mind seeing more images of the beautiful Holy Name Church in Manchester where it was recorded either! twitter.com/sirbasme…