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Classical - Released November 7, 2011 | Zig-Zag Territoires
Booklet Distinctions Pianiste Maestro - Choc de Classica - Exceptional sound
The novelty contained in this recording goes a good deal deeper than the wacky graphics that seem to have become the norm for French Baroque music releases. French harpsichordist Blandine Rannou, playing a 1988 replica of a powerful Ruckers instrument, puts to rest, perhaps permanently, the idea that harpsichord interpretations of the towering Goldberg Variations, BWV 988, are inherently less dramatic, irregular, and expressive than those played on a modern piano. From the beginning Rannou's performance is unexpected, with the opening aria clocking in at amost seven minutes. It is as if Rannou wanted to open up a huge musical space that could contain the musical experiments on which she is about to embark. And they come fast and furious. Rannou adds heavy ornaments, uses lots of rubato all the way through, and follows one variation with another without pause, except for a few full stops. Dramatic contrasts are the order of the day. There are other very slow variations (the Adagio variation 25 gets nearly ten minutes to unfold its mysteries), but Rannou only rarely resorts to blinding speed, as opposed to ornamentational density. Instead she uses the space to shape each individual variation into a series of quasi-fantastic effects, linking the work to Bach's mighty works in semi-improvisational traditions. This is an unusual way, in the extreme, of hearing the Goldberg Variations. It pretty much disregards the work's elaborate tripartite architecture of melodic, virtuoso, and contrapuntal variations, and it requires disbelief in the (probably untrue) origin story of the variations as written for a Count Goldberg who wanted music to drift off to sleep by. For Rannou, the Goldberg Variations are a supremely public work. Not everyone will love this, but it demands to be heard, and Rannou is supported by superb sound from the Zig Zag Territoires label.
Classical - Released January 1, 2007 | Alpha
Classical - Released May 1, 2005 | Zig-Zag Territoires
Harpsichordist Blandine Rannou has taken on Bach's 7 Toccatas for keyboard, BWV 911-916. These are early works that are among the most infrequently performed of all of his compositions. In many ways, each one seems to be just a cobbling together of smaller pieces, most quite improvisatory sounding, some virtuosic sounding. Even though the toccatas are not as profound as Bach's later, more mature works, their freeform nature implies a certain depth of feeling. Rannou is a skilled performer who has an easy way with the music, but seems to skim over its more expressive possibilities. It is not that the sound of the recording is dulling her performance; it is clear and not overly resonant. The famous first Allegro of the Toccata in D major, BWV 912, is usually imagined as grand and noble, brisk and dashing. Rannou is more relaxed with it, making it more of a cheerful, almost skipping outing. She is most animated in the fantasia-like portions of the toccatas, where she can let go with sweeping flourishes. The slow sections are tinged with feeling that could be more contemplative or ardent, while the fugues could be more majestic and resolute. Despite the relative under-ripe nature of the compositions, a more vivid spark of emotion in Rannou's performance would make these more like what is expected of Bach's keyboard music.
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