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Jean Rondeau|Gradus ad Parnassum

Gradus ad Parnassum

Jean Rondeau

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It is a bit hard to pin down exactly what the appropriately named harpsichordist Jean Rondeau is after with this album of harpsichord music that mostly wasn't written for the harpsichord. PR claims that Gradus ad Parnassum "sensitizes us to what repertoire written for the piano can reveal about the harpsichord -- and to what the harpsichord can reveal about repertoire written for the piano," while elsewhere, Rondeau offers various philosophico-chronological reflections. He does seem to be suggesting that composers as far forward in time as Debussy had the harpsichord in their heads, directly or indirectly, as a kind of sonic ideal. This is debatable, especially in Debussy's case, but Rondeau successfully picks music that refers back to the Baroque, and in some cases, including that of Debussy, to the instructional works by Johann Joseph Fux published under the name Gradus ad Parnassum ("Steps to Parnassus"). Probably the best way to hear the album is simply as a fantasy, as music that uses the harpsichord to elaborate on compositions of various kinds. These include a pair of pre-harpsichord keyboard pieces attributed to Palestrina that frame the program. The rarely heard pair of Preludes by Beethoven were Bachian exercises from his teenage years. There are two imposing works from Fux himself that are worth the listener's time, and a pair of pieces from a Gradus ad Parnassum collection of piano pieces by Muzio Clementi. The Mozart Fantasia in D minor, K. 397, works effectively as a big Baroque quasi-improvisatory piece, and the harpsichord was not too far in the rearview mirror when Haydn composed his Piano Sonata in A flat major, Hob. 16/46. Some pieces work better than others here, but the album is never less than listenable, with booming sound from the Salle de Musique at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

© James Manheim /TiVo

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Gradus ad Parnassum

Jean Rondeau

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1
Ricercare del primo tuono
00:04:18

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

2
Harpeggio and Fuga in G Major: Harpeggio
00:03:27

Johann Joseph Fux, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

3
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-Flat Major, Hob. XVI:46 "Divertimento": I. Allegro moderato
00:13:45

Joseph Haydn, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

4
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-Flat Major, Hob. XVI:46 "Divertimento": II. Adagio
00:08:35

Joseph Haydn, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

5
Piano Sonata No. 31 in A-Flat Major, Hob. XVI:46 "Divertimento": III. Finale. Presto
00:05:35

Joseph Haydn, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

6
Gradus ad Parnassum, Op. 44: No. 45 in C Minor, Andante malinconico (Transcr. Rondeau)
00:02:47

Muzio CLEMENTI, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, Transcriber, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

7
2 Preludes, Op. 39: No. 2 in C Major (Transcr. Rondeau)
00:03:22

Ludwig van Beethoven, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, Transcriber, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

8
Children's Corner, CD. 119, L. 113: I. Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum (Transcr. Rondeau)
00:02:59

Claude Debussy, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, Transcriber, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

9
Prelude in F Minor, WoO 55 (Transcr. Rondeau)
00:03:11

Ludwig van Beethoven, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, Transcriber, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

10
Gradus ad Parnassum, Op. 44: No. 14 in F Major, Adagio sostenuto (Transcr. Rondeau)
00:06:02

Muzio CLEMENTI, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, Transcriber, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

11
Fantasia No. 3 in D Minor, K. 397
00:06:24

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

12
Piano Sonata No. 16 in C Major, K. 545 "Semplice": II. Andante
00:06:18

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

13
Ciaccona in D Major, K. 403
00:10:49

Johann Joseph Fux, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

14
Ricercare del secondo tuono
00:04:33

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Composer - Jean rondeau, Harpsichord, MainArtist

A Warner Classics/Erato release, © 2023 Parlophone Records Limited A Warner Classics/Erato release, ℗ 2023 Parlophone Records Limited

Album review

It is a bit hard to pin down exactly what the appropriately named harpsichordist Jean Rondeau is after with this album of harpsichord music that mostly wasn't written for the harpsichord. PR claims that Gradus ad Parnassum "sensitizes us to what repertoire written for the piano can reveal about the harpsichord -- and to what the harpsichord can reveal about repertoire written for the piano," while elsewhere, Rondeau offers various philosophico-chronological reflections. He does seem to be suggesting that composers as far forward in time as Debussy had the harpsichord in their heads, directly or indirectly, as a kind of sonic ideal. This is debatable, especially in Debussy's case, but Rondeau successfully picks music that refers back to the Baroque, and in some cases, including that of Debussy, to the instructional works by Johann Joseph Fux published under the name Gradus ad Parnassum ("Steps to Parnassus"). Probably the best way to hear the album is simply as a fantasy, as music that uses the harpsichord to elaborate on compositions of various kinds. These include a pair of pre-harpsichord keyboard pieces attributed to Palestrina that frame the program. The rarely heard pair of Preludes by Beethoven were Bachian exercises from his teenage years. There are two imposing works from Fux himself that are worth the listener's time, and a pair of pieces from a Gradus ad Parnassum collection of piano pieces by Muzio Clementi. The Mozart Fantasia in D minor, K. 397, works effectively as a big Baroque quasi-improvisatory piece, and the harpsichord was not too far in the rearview mirror when Haydn composed his Piano Sonata in A flat major, Hob. 16/46. Some pieces work better than others here, but the album is never less than listenable, with booming sound from the Salle de Musique at La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.

© James Manheim /TiVo

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