Couperin Vol. III on Hyperion

2005-11-05 / Daily Telegraph / Elizabeth Roche

François Couperin: Pièces de Clavecin
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Hyperion CDA67520, £12.99

First, the bad news. This third splendid selection of Couperin’s keyboard music from Angela Hewitt is reported to be the last in the series. The good news, however, is that it is, if possible, even more delightful than its predecessors, illustrating the wit, charm, and above all the vivid descriptive power of his music.

This is heard to perfection in the 13th Ordre, whose centrepiece is a set of tiny vignettes portraying allegorical figures arriving at a scandalous masked ball. Coquetry’s inconstancy is aptly reflected by frequent changes of time-signature; Hope’s confident ebullience contrasts nicely with Languor’s laid-back luxuriance; and Silent Jealousy’s concentration on the lower end of the keyboard produces an inexorably menacing effect.

The crispness and clarity of Hewitt’s performances, especially her apparently effortlessly elegant ornamentation, bring these and all Couperin’s other musical pictures instantly to life. The lily-buds in Les Lis naissans seem almost to unfold before the listener’s eyes. Slow, ecstatic trills beautifully evoke the love-lorn nightingale’s rapturous song, and more urgent, whirring ones provide an almost too graphic imitation of an alarm-clock.