Magazine article Gramophone

Staier and His Harpsichord in a World of Melancholia

Magazine article Gramophone

Staier and His Harpsichord in a World of Melancholia

Article excerpt

'...pour passer la melancolie'

d'Anglebert Pieces de clavecin, livre premier--Fugue grave pour l'orgue; Prelude; Tombeau de MdeChambonnieres; Rondeau Clerambault Premier livre de Pieces de clavecin--Prelude; Allemande; Courante;Sarabande grave L Couperin Suite in Fmajor JCF Fischer Uranie--Musicalischer Parnassus. Ricercar pro Tempore Quadragesimae super Initium Cantilenae Froberger SuiteXXX. Suite VI--Lamento sopraladolorosa perdita della Real Maesta di Ferdinando IV Muffat Apparatus musico-organisticus--Passacaglia

Andreas Staier hpd

Harmonia Mundi (F) HMC90 2143 (75' * DDD)

'...pour passer la melancolie' is harpsichordist Andreas Staier's engaging survey of a complicated collection of affects and gestures that seem to suggest an analogue to the philosophical idea of melancholy. The music selected comes from familiar figures such as Froberger, d 'Anglebert and Louis Couperin, and lesser lights, including some spectacular showpieces from figures such as Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer. Some of the works, including Couperin's 'Tombeau de Mde Blancrocher (from the Suite in Fmajor), are staples of the repertoire but much of what Staier champions will be a pleasant surprise to most listeners.

Melancholia was one of the basic humours of the body, its etymology referring to the black bile which Greek physicians believed was the cause of the sadness, listlessness and general malaise associated with the affliction. Today we would say 'depression and treat it with drugs. But in the 17th century in particular it was closely associated both with artistic and intellectual creation, and with music, which was deemed the best remedy for the suffering.

From the same general period we have curious, almost programmatic works for the harpsichord: the tombeau, which served as musical grave marker or epitaph; the passacaglia, which reached extremes of tension and expressivity; and impossible-to-categorise fantasy works which bore titles seemingly ripped from the sensitive artist s daily journal. In the last of these categories are some exceptionally beautiful and haunting pieces by Froberger, which form the backbone of Staier's album.

The challenge here is to manage so many musical oddities, so much over-the-top straining at new sounds and new ways to intensify the harpsichord's aural possibilities. …

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