Pavana: the Virgin Harpsichord; (p) 2001 Astree; Skip Sempé, Olivier Fortin, and Pierre Hantaï. I've never seen Sempé in a public performance. Nor have I seen his buddy, Fortin, but I have seen Hantaï, perhaps the most accomplished of this trio. I find this music interesting in that sometimes it lacks direction--is it pulling us in any one direction? When I first reviewed this CD in November of 2002, I said:
This CD features works by Byrd, Bull, Gibbons, Dowland, and other noteable composers of virginal music in England. Similar in concept to Sempe’s Vivaldi/Bach album with Fortin, this is multiple-harpsichord music played with penache and with a unique detail to texture. A full, 70-minute disk of material I really hadn’t bother to own before. The combination of virginal and different harpsichords makes for some interesting sounds on a reasonably well-done recording. While I could speak on the character of the music, I feel more qualified to speak on the performance. One track that stands out and fairly typifies the set is track 21, the “Frog Galliard” by Thomas Morley. The richness of sound and timbre is quite striking. Usually my opinion about virginal music is a thin-sounding plucked instrument that has unique character of harmony and gesture. Three very qualified harpsichordists/specialists together brings Morley’s little galliard full-well into the baroque aesthetic. For lovers of harpischord repertoire, indeed, a must-have. Listening more recently, I have to say I have not auditioned this disc very much. I'll throw in a track or two for a random mix of music. The Gibbon's Fantazia is an example of a gem of a work mixed in with others of less fortitude. And a gem not so much for the notes, but the Affekt achieved when piling multiple harpsichords together. Rich sonority. I'm not so sure this is the "must-have" (even for harpsichord enthusiasts) that I announced earlier. The Sempé/Fortin Bach and Vivaldi CD that came out earlier is superior. It's a top-10 in my eyes. This one attempted the same formula, but I find the music less palatable.