In preparation for Rousett’s April 9 concert, I thought I would share some thoughts about a couple of my personal favorites. These are by no means official SDEMS positions, and your mileage may vary. Laurent and I have dueled over our perceived strengths and weaknesses of these recordings for many years. In fact, I find as the years go by that I have come to better appreciate some of which I considered to be his “lesser” recordings, and I reserve the right to change my opinions at any time.
Rousset’s first recording that really grabbed me by the ears was his 1993 recording of the Pièces de Clavecin of Pancrace Royer, for which he was awarded the “Diapason d’Or”. Up until then I believe that Royer’s music—some of the latest in the harpsichord repertoire—was largely ignored outside of France. This recording by the then young artist caught everyone’s attention, if only for its electrifying performance of Le Vertigo. This recording was an exercise in both energy and suave subtlety and I think it marks the point at which I became seriously passionate about the harpsichord. Rousset recorded on the 1751 Hemsch, one of the great historical instruments and a favorite of his in his early recording years.
Just as Glenn Gould re-recorded his defining performance of the Goldberg Variations later in life, Rousset re-recorded the Royer in 2008, this time on the 1749/1784 Goujon. This later recording has the advantages of improved recording technology, but to my ears the energy and concept is unchanged. If you have neither recording, or for that matter nothing of Rousett’s, I would order this later release right away. When you receive it, play it with your very best high fidelity setup, perhaps with the volume up just a little, and don’t forget to wear a sweater, because you will get the chills when Le Vertigo is performed.
I’ve just scratched the surface. In the process, I just realized that I had not ordered Rousset’s latest recording of the music of Marchand and Rameau. Yikes! I guess that will make it 210 harpsichord recordings.
Now is the time to order your season tickets. In addition to the International Series, which includes Rousset’s performance, you won’t want to miss the Recital Series. Visit the SDEMS web site for details.—Kemer