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Although Rameau is chiefly famous for the magnificent operas he composed in later life, his solo harpsichord works are hardly less extraordinary. This is especially true of the Pièces de Clavecin (1724) and Nouvelle Suites de Pièces de Clavecin (c1729– 30): they are brilliant displays of wit and invention: the first suite of each pair is made up mostly of traditional dance movements (often radically revised), the second suite of pièces de caractère, which depict everything from the mythological Cyclops to a harassed hen to a Native American dance.

Mahan Esfahani brings such portrayals vividly to life, and also offers sparkling accounts of less exotic items, such as the 1729 A minor suite’s sad, dignified Allemande and fragile Sarabande. He plays an original (minimally restored) 1636/1763 Ruckers-Hemsch harpsichord from the Cobbe Collection; its soft-edged, dry, intimate sound is very appealing. The set opens with the single-suite Premier Livre de Pièces de Clavecin (1707), so all of Rameau’s essential solo works are included; and, thanks to Esfahani’s persuasive and charming advocacy, they sound utterly entrancing here.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2015 - ©Rhinegold Publishing