Chambonnières: Harpsichord Suites

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Composer: Jacques Champion de Chambonnières
Artists: Franz Silvestri

Considered during his lifetime to be the greatest harpsichord player in France, Jacques Champion de Chambonnières followed in his father’s tradition to become the official harpsichordist and composer at the royal court, serving the King of France from the age of just 10. He was admired for his generosity in supporting budding composers (such as Louis Couperin), and was a keen advocate of innovation in harpsichord technology, acquiring a two-manual harpsichord as soon as they became available, and pioneering the new continuo style. Admired for his musicianship as much as his skills as a composer and performer, it is little wonder that he was also a prolific dancer – the Suites featured on this album follow the traditional structure of collections of dance movements, including lively gigues and slow sarabandes. His music reveals a very advanced technique for its time, with clear inspiration from contemporary composers such as Dowland, though Chambonnières never went on to explore the Prelude so popular of his protégés Louis Couperin and D’Anglebert.

This album – already released as part of the recent multi-CD boxset French Harpsichord Music – is one of a number of harpsichord music CDs released by Brilliant Classics over the past few years. Opening the door to the superb sounds of this golden age of French music-making, they represent an ideal opportunity to explore keyboard music from this time, discovering the talented musicians who preceded the greats of the next generation such as Couperin and D’Anglebert. Italian musician Franz Silvestri plays on a modern harpsichord by Andrea di Maio, carefully modelled after a Vaudy instrument from 1681.

Jacques Champion de Chambonnières (1601-1672) is called the father of the French harpsichord school. He was a keyboard player, composer and dancer, and held the prestigious post of Court Composer at the court of the King of France. His fame spread all over Europe, and he counted many composers as his pupils: the Couperin family, D’Angelbert, Froberger and many others. Being a professional dancer it is no wonder Chambonnières composed many suites of dance forms, such as the Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue, brilliantly written in elaborate style, making full use of the possibilities of the then newly invented 2-manual harpsichord. Played by Franz Silvestri plays a magnificent copy of a 1681 Vaudy harpsichord.
Recorded in Italy in 2015. Contains notes on the music and a biography of the artist in English and Italian.

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