Le Clavecin Mythologique

Le Clavecin Mythologique
Anne Marie Dragosits
ECL1801. 73’00

J-H. d’Anglebert: Les Songes Agréables d’Atys, Passacaille d’Armide, Les Sourdines d’Armide
F. Couperin: Les Satires, Ls Sylvains, Les Ombres Errantes
J.-P. Rameau: L’Entretien des Muses, Les Cyclopes
J.-B. Forqueray: Jupiter
P. Royer: L’Imagination, Allemande, La Sensible, La Marche des Scythes
J. Duphly: Médée, Les Grâces

One of the essential tasks for any musician or music promoter is putting together a programme that will make sense to the listener as well as providing a satisfactory ‘hook’ for the performer to share their musical wares. This recording (released in 2018) by the Vienna-based harpsichordist Anne Marie Dragosits presents us with a Suite mythologique consisting of music by composers covering the whole range of the French Baroque harpsichord school from d’Anglebert to Duphly, all based on the mythological world of antiquity.

Of course, the world of myth has been the mainstay of all the arts from the Medieval period to the present day, but it had particular relevance in the Baroque era. At one extreme, in the representational arts, it provided a useful excuse to depict young ladies in various stages of undress but, on a wider stage, it offered access to possible explanations of human desires, emotions and experiences – and some of the gloriously implausible stories that continue to befuddle opera audiences.

In more ways that one, this recording presents us with an opera for harpsichord. An arrangement of an extract from Royer’s 1743 ballet héroïque: Le pouvoir de l’amour, is offered as a prologue as Prometheus is greeted by Imagination who sings to him I come to make you happy. There follows the arrival of the Goddesses of the arts with Rameau’s L’Entretien des Muses, followed by Couperin’s clumsy Les Satires.

And so the mythological characters appear in a well-balanced sequence of nicely contrasted musical scenes. Moments of reflection come in the exquisite Les Grâces by Duphly and Boyer’s La Sensible (the only piece to have no direct mythological connection).

The harpsichord is the 1787 Pascal Taskin, now in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg. It is one of the new-built harpsichords that Taskin labelled as being a conversion of a Ruckers, in this case, dating from 1636, hiding his own name within the instrument. It includes many of the ‘improvements’ from late 18th-century as the fortepiano gained in popularity, including features such as a peau de buffle register with of soft buffalo leather plectra he, although this device is in need of restoration. The gremlins include the rather attractive effect of a register not being entirely removed, adding an acoustic resonance to the instrument.

Anne Marie Dragosits plays with a very attractive sense of the structure of each piece and the rhetorical ebb and flow of the music. Her notes described the evolving ‘action’ of the ‘plot’ in the order of playing, which is not chronological. This is an innovative way of presenting the characterful music of the period.