Jean-Philippe Rameau

Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin, for harpsichord

    Description by Brian Robins

    Although principally known as a dramatic composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau also made a substantial contribution to the French keyboard repertoire, an important Baroque genre that reached its highest point in the harpsichord works of François Couperin. Like most of the output of the French clavecinistes, Rameau's harpsichord works were gathered into collections generally arranged in books according to key. There are three such major collections in the instance of Rameau; the Premier livre de pièces de clavecin (1706), the Pièces de clavecin (1724), and the present anthology, published around 1729. The Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin includes 15 pieces. Like all French keyboard works, they are notable for such characteristic devices as the broken chord (stile brisé) taken over by French keyboard composers from the influential school of early seventeenth century lutenists. Also highly characteristic are the lavishly decorated melodic lines, based on a code of ornamentation illustrated in didactic prefaces by composers such as d'Anglebert and Couperin. As in all three of Rameau's collections, the pieces are divided between the binary (two-part) dance movements of the Baroque suite and the character pieces unique to French instrumental music. The present collection is headed by three dance movements: an Allemande, a Courante, and a Sarabande (worthy of special mention as one of Rameau's noblest conceptions), and also includes a Gavotte et doubles (variations) and a pair of Minuets. The descriptive character or genre pieces sometimes have intriguing titles, the original meaning of which cannot always be determined. The Nouvelles suites includes ten such pieces, among them one of the composer's most famous keyboard works, L'enharmonique. It takes it name from the striking enharmonic modulation just after the start of the second half, reminding listeners that the composer was also an outstanding theorist whose Traite d'harmonie (Treatise on Harmony) was one of the most influential pedagogical publications of the eighteenth century. Another popular piece here is La poule, which graphically imitates the clucking of a hen in the most ingenious fashion. The contemporary vogue for the exotic is not ignored, either, as the inclusion of pieces entitled Les sauvages and L'égyptienne clearly illustrates. The first seven pieces of the anthology are grouped around A major and A minor, while the remainder are centered on G major and G minor. A number of Rameau's keyboard works were later orchestrated and reused in his operas, an example being the Sarabande, which later found its way into the third act of Zaroastra (1749).


    1. Allemande in A minor
    2. Courante in A minor
    3. Sarabande in A major
    4. Les trois mains in A minor
    5. Fanfarinette in A major
    6. La triomphante in A major
    7. Gavotte in A minor
    8. 1er double
    9. 2e double
    10. 3e double
    11. 4e double
    12. 5er double
    13. 6e double
    14. Les tricotets, rondeau in G major
    15. L'indifférente in G minor
    16. Menuet in G major
    17. 2e menuet in G minor
    18. La poule in G minor
    19. Les triolets in G major
    20. Les sauvages in G minor
    21. L'enharmonique in G minor
    22. L'égyptienne in G minor

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Resonus RES 10214
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95250BR
    2016 Onclassical OC 130BSET
    2015 Harmonia Mundi HMX 2901754
    2015 Alpha ALPHA 309
    2014 Erato 2564625799
    2014 La Musica LMU 002
    2014 Simax / Simax Classics PSC 1345
    2012 Dorian Sono Luminus DSL 92154
    2010 Harmonia Mundi 2908379
    2010 Alba 290
    2010 Decca 425 886-2OH2
    2009 CRD Records CRD 35112
    2008 Centaur Records 2940
    2007 Zig Zag Territoires 3071001
    2007 Hyperion 67597
    2007 Hyperion 67597
    2004 EMI Classics 85228
    2004 Chandos 708
    2003 Calliope 3278/9
    2003 Harmonia Mundi 987039/40
    2003 Zig Zag Territoires 10301
    2003 Harmonia mundi 2901120/21
    2002 Harmonia Mundi 901754
    1999 Calliope 9279
    1995 Naxos 553048
    1990 Archiv Produktion 4271762
    Brilliant Classics 93903
    Adda 581901
    Accord 242962
    Saphir Productions 1110
    Naxos 550463
    Solstice Records 61