Olivier Fortin is a Canadian harpsichordist and the founder and leader of the early music group Ensemble Masques. A graduate of the Québec Conservatory, where he completed his studies in 1995 with distinction, Fortin studied with Dom André Laberge, and earned his Master's degree at the University of Montreal under the guidance of Réjean Poirier. He continued his harpsichord studies in Europe with Pierre Hantaï and Bob van Asperen. Fortin won prizes at the Montreal Bach Competition and the Bruges Festival in 1997. He has taken Ensemble Masques on toured in Europe, the United States, and Canada, and performed with Tafelmusik and Capriccio Stravagante. He has recorded for Alpha, ATMA Classique, Zig Zag Territoires, Analekta, Astrée, and Paradiso.
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Chamber Music - Released September 14, 2018 | Alpha Classics
"The harpsichord is perfect as to it compass, and brilliant in itself, but as it is impossible to swell out or diminish the volume of its sound, I shall always feel grateful to any who, by the exercise of infinite art supported by fine taste, contrive to render this instrument capable of expression", writes Couperin himself in the foreword to his 1713 Premier livre de pièces de clavecin. If we discount the ornamentations which litter the world, Couperin's music is not a "virtuoso" music, as Scarlatti's can be, for example. Sometimes taking on a descriptive style, or going in for imitation or portrait, it requires a singular sense of expression: that very "expression" that the composer talks about here. In Art de toucher le clavecin, Couperin offers us precious information on how to interpret and play his music in particular, and French music of the period in general; an artist who aims to respect Couperin's intentions will find indispensable lessons here. That being said, a fear of stepping outside the bounds set by the author, and a too-minute attention to every detail could rob the works of their vitality and fluency. "As there is a great distance from grammar to declamation, so there is an infinitely greater one between the tablature and good playing style." Or, in other words, freedom within limits! That is the attitude that Olivier Fortin brings to this fine range of works from the great Couperin, drawn from various of his Livres de clavecin and L’Art de toucher le clavecin. As for the instrument being played, it is a "real fake", made in 1984 by the manufacturer Martin Skowroneck based on a Hemsch (that is, 18th century French), but signed with the name of the Rouen artistan Nicholas Lefebvre, none of whose instruments survive to the present day, and which was built in 1755. Skowroneck's aim was to prove to Gustav Leonhardt that it was still possible to build a harpsichord that was perfectly identical to one of the old style, and it seems that Leonhardt was taken with his attempt. Even the material's ageing was completely artificial! But it is no less of a splendid instrument for all that, and moreover, splendidly recorded, which is not all that common in the harpsichord repertoire. © SM/Qobuz