« view all posts
Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place: Music by the Couperins, Bach, Rameau, Sweelinck, Byrd Forqueray, Froberger and Larry Bell
Whaling City Sound WCS 059, 66 mins.
Listened at the right time of day, in the right mood, this is like the early music beauty that so many of us fell in love with when we were young. Paul Cienniwa, who is music director at First Church of Boston, is young and obviously deeply in love with this string of contemplative beauties. As he notes on his website, this is music of meditation. The sequencing of the 16 tracks is what makes this mix so extraordinary. These types of miscellaneous CDs are usually grouped by composer, the early ones first. The most common alternative is either adding at the end or interspersing in a conceptualized way music by contemporary composers. Cienniwa adopts another mode, based on his inner sense of creative flow, fueled by an abundance of musical imagination and desire. Performed on a lovely, gentle William Dowd harpsichord of 1966, the equally lovely, gentle recording was made at St. Francis of Assisi Parish Church in Swansea, a Massachusetts town founded as early as 1662. Cienniwa is less insistent on even articulation than he is in the inevitably of rhythm and sense of tone, thereby lulling you into hearing harmonic patterns that the composer is going to subtly shade and interrupt. The one contemporary work, a Sarabande by Larry Thomas Bell, bridges Rameau and Sweelinck by crystallizing their music in modern, angular terms, and then making slight adjustments. It's music that Bach would have listened to carefully. After a bewitching sequence of Sweelinck, Byrd and Louis Couperin, Cienniwa reveals just how radical and free Bach's Fantasy BWV 797 was when he wrote it. It is a dizzying experience in a very quiet meditative place. Then, after Francois Couperin shares his concern for the sins he has committed, Froberger and Rameau welcome back the living with teasing reminders of how pleasant life is meant to be. "A thin place," Cienniwa writes, "is the threshold between the ordinary and the spiritual ... my greatest desire is to bring my audience to a thin place through the beautiful stately elegance of the harpsichord's most introspective repertoire."
By Laurence Vittes