Couperin Keyboard Works Vol. 3 on Hyperion

2005-11-01 / BBC Music Magazine / George Pratt

F. Couperin
Keyboard Music, Vol. 3
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Hyperion CDA 67520

Angela Hewitt works her magic on the most instrument-specific of the French grand siècle harpsichordists, not least by respecting rather than rejecting the harpsichord. She capitalises on the piano, shaping phrases with a gentle dynamic ebb and flow (track 3, ‘L’engageante’), warming tone and sustaining notes with discreet pedal (track 21, ‘Les Idées heureuses’). But her fingering clarity matches the articulation of a harpsichord’s plucked string. Above all, her impeccably even tone allows her to deck the melodic lines with Couperin’s carefully-specified ornaments, without a hint of obtrusive accent.

The 13th ‘Ordre’ is brilliantly coloured, including 12 brief variations representing characters at a masked ball. The remaining items, picked from elsewhere, include a delightful ‘Nightingale-in-love’, slipping up an octave in a repeat, as if to a 4ft harpsichord register. Another gem is the charming lullaby ‘Le Dodo’, Hewitt’s hands on the piano’s single keyboard imitating beautifully the sinuous legato texture which Couperin intended for two keyboards. Her notes have become more informal over the three-CD series, as she has become closer to the composer, and she is uninhibited in her witty alarm-clock rattling, ‘Le Réveil-matin’ and, a telling detail, her staccato broken-octave fingering is a tour de force.