Collection - Skip Sempé - A French Collection

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Are you ready to party? This CD rocks! If you lived during the 18th century and had some friends over for a party, this is the CD you would have had playing all night. But, wait a minute. They didn't have electricity and CD players back in the 1700s. They did even better. Back then, when the aristocracy threw a "soirée", they would have the composer himself playing live in front of the guests. That is how music flourished back then. They had no other choice. If your music was to be heard, people would have to travel long distances to come and hear you play, or you became a travelling musician and went on tour just like pop artists of today.

This impressive collection is comprised of short harpsichord pieces by Louis Marchand, Jacques Duphly, Claude-Bénigne Balbastre, Michel Corrette and Joseph Nicolas Pancrace Royer. They present a full range of contrasts, ornamentations, elegance and downright raucous fun. Royer himself once wrote "one can go from very soft effects to the loudest possible noises, even in the same piece". The full gamut of French Baroque music from the Age of Enlightenment is on display on this disc, and performed with both nobility and fierce abandon by Skip Sempé, one of the best harpsichord players and early music specialists of today.

Some of the works by Balbastre and Royer will astound you by their bold style and energetic abandon. French Baroque was all about blending elements of good taste and refinement with loud and flashy histrionics, all for the enjoyment of the listener of course.

The sonically impressive instrument used in this recording was built in 1985 by Bruce Kennedy, and is based on 18th century French models. It has a rich and full tone with a very pleasant sound from top to bottom. It is not one of those tinkly, metallic sounding harpsichords that grate on the nerves after a while. The recording by the fine engineers at Paradizo captures the instrument very well in a close but naturally sounding environment. It puts some other harpsichord recordings to shame.

Jean-Yves Duperron