Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harpsichord Concert

Last night I enjoyed a harpsichord recital. The performer, an elegant woman about my age, played music by Jean-Henry D'Anglebert and by Johann Sebastian Bach. It was exquisite music, played with charm and spirit.

According to the program notes, Jean-Henry was a man (a steel driving man) employed in the court of Louis XIV as a claveciniste and music instructor to Marie-Anne, the Princesse de Conti and the legitimated child of Louis XIV and mistress Louise de La Valliere. The first half of the program was devoted to his Suite I in G Major. The piece was expressive and richly ornamented.

I have heard harpsichord music of the French baroque in which melody is dominated by ornamentation, producing a sound like the showering of stainless steel forks onto a concrete floor. Not so with D'Anglebert's ornaments, which form a natural and integrated part of his melodic lines.

My favorite movement from D'Anglebert's Suite was the Sarabande. As I think of it now, I remember it in visual terms. It was like watching a crystal bird as it leisurely swooped and soared in the bright sunlight. The path of its flight was the melody, and the ornaments were like the flashing of its crystal wings.