Alan Cuckston

François Couperin: Pièces de Clavecin, Books 3 & 4 (Selections)

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AllMusic Review by

Alan Cuckston's selections from François Couperin's Ordres for harpsichord are among the finest offerings in the Naxos catalog. Couperin's character pieces are idiosyncratic and often inscrutable and require intuition and sympathy, which Cuckston has in abundance. A piece like Les folies françoises, with its fanciful portrayal of domino costumes in colors associated with abstract attributes -- e.g., "La Virginité (sous le couleur d'invisible)" -- requires considerable musical imagination and wit to bring it off. Cuckston shades these pieces with subtle distinctions, and the rhythmic flexibility he employs at least conveys Couperin's playfulness. Le Tic Toc Choc, ou les Maillotins (Clockwork, or the Little Hammers) and Le Gaillard-Boîteux (The Limping Galliard) are also effectively conveyed through Cuckston's use of timing and accentuation as descriptive devices. The portraits, such as L'engageante; La Superbe, ou la Forqueray; and Soeur Monique, are harder to decipher aurally, but the charm and bravura supplied in these performances suggest the characterizations Couperin intended. Perhaps the most enigmatic of all these miniatures is La Couperin, in which Cuckston's playing seems to probe the composer's restless inner state. The excellent sound quality of this 1991 release is worth noting since it is natural and close to the keyboard without sounding artificially boosted.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
13e ordre for harpsichord (Pièces de clavecin, III)
1
2:04
2
3:34
3
3:43
4
0:30
5
0:30
6
0:32
7
0:37
8
0:41
9
0:39
10
0:49
11
0:24
12
0:55
13
0:40
14
0:57
15
0:37
16
3:33
17e ordre for harpsichord (Pièces de clavecin, III)
17
4:21
18
2:11
19
2:43
20
2:18
21
2:35
18e ordre for harpsichord (Pièces de clavecin, III)
22
4:08
23
2:07
24
3:14
25
1:53
26
3:05
27
3:02
28
3:27
21e ordre for harpsichord (Pièces de clavecin, IV)
29
3:06
30
2:28
31
4:11
32
3:27
33
2:10
blue highlight denotes track pick