Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place in review



Harpsichord Music for a Thin Place.” Var comps. Var pieces. Paul Cienniwa (hpsi). Whaling City Sound WCS 059 (1 CD) 

…pour passer la mélancolie.” Var comps. Var pieces. Andreas Staier (hpsi). Harmonia Mundi HMC 902143 (1 CD) 

Presented on a 1966 William Dowd, Cienniwa’s program groups 16 generally slow and meditative pièces, intentionally avoiding minor-mode melancholy. The title’s “thin place” limns a perceived border between the ordinary and spiritual. One pièce is contemporary, Larry Thomas Bell’s Sarabande from Partita No. 1, Op. 97 (2009), and there’s a transcription of the Andante from Bach’s Sonata No. 2 for solo violin. The Couperins take pride of place with four Préludes from L’art du toucher le clavecin and two of Louis’ pièces. La Sylvia and La Du Vaucel represent the Forqueray dynasty. For Rameau we get the Allemande from the 1728 Suite in A, and, like Chassot, Cienniwa closes with an expansive Les Soupirs. From outside France come Sweelinck’s O lux beata trinitas, Byrd’s Ave verum corpus, and a D major Allemande from Froberger. Cienniwa seems more at home in the French works. As always, I wish for more Rameau. The BWV 1003 transcription’s rubato feels out of place in passages violinists perform strictly.

Staier plays an anonymous 17th-century French instrument, restored at this century’s start. Its hazy resonance dulls attacks. Composers include Froberger, D’Anglebert, J.C.F. Fischer, L. Couperin, Clérambault and Georg Muffat. I admit not focusing until Couperin’s F major Suite with the Tombeau de M. de Blancrocher and wandering away again. Kim’s D’Anglebert is more riveting and majestic. As far as collections go, whether moody or otherwise, Cienniwa’s program makes more sense. Staier’s set will sit, forgotten, on a shelf.

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