This recording by fine French harpsichordist Christophe Rousset exposes some music from beyond the famous names of the French Baroque. The central attraction is a pair of suites and three characteristic pieces by Louis Marchand, an organist at Versailles who is famous in musical history for having supposedly ducked an organ duel with J.S. Bach. His two suites recorded here were composed in 1702 and 1706, and thus are almost contemporary with the early Rameau Suite in A minor (1706), from his first book of keyboard suites. All the suites consist of a rhythmically free, quasi-improvised prelude followed by a series of stylized dances; three short character pieces by Marchand are also included as a sort of entr'acte. Nevertheless, the music by Marchand and that by Rameau make diametrically different impressions stylistically, and Rousset plays these differences to the hilt. The pieces by Marchand reside low on the keyboard; they have gravity and soberness and they look back to the golden age of the 17th century French courts. The Rameau suite, early though it is, offers a perfect specimen of his style: it is muscular and harmonically inventive, often proceeding in dense bricks of chords. The result is a program that brings French Baroque keyboard music alive, aided by a mighty instrument: a 1716 Donzélague two-manual harpsichord with an extended bottom range. Highly recommended for Baroque keyboard fans.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suite en ré (Premier livre, 1699)|
|Suite en sol (Deuxième livre, 1702)|
|Suite en la (Premier livre, 1706)|