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BALBASTRE, C.-B.: Harpsichord Music - Pieces de clavecin, Book 1 / Livre contenant des pieces de different genre (excerpts) (Farr)

Composer(s):Balbastre, Claude-BenigneRameau, Jean-Philippe
Artist(s) Farr, Elizabeth, harpsichord
Period(s) Baroque (1600-1750)Classical (1750-1830)
Genre Classical Music
Category Instrumental
Catalogue 8.572034-35
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps

A celebrated keyboardist and composer under the ancien régime, Claude-Bénigne Balbastre survived the French Revolution only to die in poverty a decade later. His multifaceted musical legacy continued the strong tradition of French harpsichord music while embracing the innovations of Italian music, such as those of Scarlatti, and fashionable new styles which emerged for the salon. Completely charming and tuneful, his keyboard works are well served by the stunning Keith Hill instrument chosen for this recording. Other highly-acclaimed recordings featuring Elizabeth Farr are also available on Naxos.


Review By Charlotte Mattax Moersch,Early Music America,October 2010

Claude-Bénigne Balbastre (1727–1799) was one of the most celebrated French harpsichord composers of his time. As Elizabeth Farr writes in her informative liner notes, Balbastre was a student of Jean-Philippe Rameau and Pierre Février in Paris. He performed to great acclaim in the Concert Spirituel, the famous Parisian concert series, and was lauded as well by Charles Burney in his The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771). Writing in the years preceding the French Revolution, Balbastre published his Pièces de clavecin in 1759. As was the fashion of the time, his pieces are musical portraits dedicated to friends, patrons, and other members of the nobility; together they offer a virtual social history of the ancien . This recording features the 17 pieces contained in that volume, as well as a handful of works chosen from Livre contenant des pieces de different genre d’orgue et de clavecin of 1749 (Versailles manuscript 264). Other works complete this two-CD set, including Balbastre’s transcriptions of four movements from Rameau’s opera Pygmalion and the well-known ‘Marche des Marseillois et l’air Ça-ira,” composed in 1792 and based on the most popular patriotic tunes of post revolutionary France.

Elizabeth Farr, associate professor of harpsichord and organ at the University of Colorado, captures at once Balbastre’s grandeur, brilliance, and charm. In this unique recording, Farr plays a large harpsichord with 1x16’, 2x8’, 1x4’, and two buff stops. The sheer power of the 16’ makes a stunning effect in such pieces as “La de Caze” and “La Suzanne” and contrasts with the delicacy of the two buff stops, used to be charming effect in the Gavotte Rondeau in G minor, among others. An award-winning keyboardist, Farr plays with delicacy, nuance, and dazzling virtuosity, giving new life to these wonderful works.


Review By James Manheim,Rovi,September 2010

Claude-Bénigne Balbastre was a student of Rameau and, from 1756, organist at Saint-Roch Church at what was then Paris’ edge. The Marquis de Sade was married there in 1763, and one likes to imagine Balbastre playing these flashy, sensualist pieces of keyboard music at the event. Balbastre published a good deal of keyboard music, most of it forgotten except for a few characteristic examples, and this generous two-disc selection by harpsichordist Elizabeth Farr will be welcomed by anyone with an interest in Parisian music and culture of the 18th century. The music included covers an extended period from the late 1740s, when Balbastre’s Livre contenant des pieces de different genre d’orgue et de clavecin closely followed Rameau’s detailed little


Review By Andreas Friesenhagen,Concerto (German music journal for early music),August 2010

Idiomatic in a Natural Way

Review By Giv Cornfield,The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics,January 2010

Kudos to the prolific Ms. Farr and Naxos for recording this delightful music by the sadly neglected Balbastre. Though not considered a pillar of baroque music, his works are solidly crafted and tuneful, even if not of the same calibre as the big-name French clavecinists like Rameau and Couperin. Acoustics play a vital role in any recording, and too dry a room or hall can seriously detract from the grandeur of a work. In this recording, however, the opposite is the case: either the micophones were too distant from the instrument, or the recordings took place in a cavernous setting, at the expense of clarity.


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