Christophe Rousset’s Fabulous Frescobaldi

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

The clarity and immediacy of the late-16th-century harpsichord that Christophe Rousset uses for this all-Frescobaldi recital unquestionably suits his contrapuntally astute yet unabashedly dramatic interpretations. Take the immense Cento partite sopra passacagli, for example. If both of Rinaldo Alessandrini’s recordings emphasize the music’s impetuous drive, Rousset illuminates the myriad harmonic and rhythmic quirks through pronounced tempo fluctuations that still manage to convey continuity and inevitability. Note also how Rousset patiently unfolds Toccata Settima’s slow and stark opening section so that it assiduously leads into the more active and complex keyboard textures.

The composer’s frequent use of sequential imitative writing often can often sound like padding, yet Rousset sidesteps this danger with subtle inflections and shifts of accents, notable in Toccatas Nona and Decima. His agogic stresses in the triple meter Quattro Correnti add a tingling sense of tension and release to the basic dotted rhythms. Rousset even makes the arguably rambling Partita sopra l aria della Romanesca cohere. Listeners new to Frescobaldi, however, might start with the Partite sopra l aria di Follia, which provides a more succinct and contained context for the composer’s unfettered inventiveness. Here Rousset’s superb articulation and masterful spacing of notes make the music sound positively contemporary, and that’s the highest compliment I can bestow on this thoroughly captivating release.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

  • Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)

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