Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts (1741)

Complete Version for Solo Keyboard by David Louie (2015)

Sheet music scores available exclusively at davidlouiepiano.com/Shop

“Performed on harpsichord alone, these pieces leave nothing more to be desired; one would not even suspect that they may be played with any other adornment.”

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Audiovisual gallery below. Performed by David Louie on a French double-manual harpsichord by Robert Hicks after an 1769 instrument by Pascal Taskin. Soundboard decoration in the French style by Marilee Dudash. 5 Concerts.

Preface to the Edition

The present volume seeks to validate Jean-Philippe Rameau’s assertion concerning his Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts: that they are all eminently playable in alternative versions on the unaccompanied harpsichord. The full title of his original edition of 1741 reads: Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts, avec un violon ou une flûte, et une viole ou un deuxième violon. Under the heading «Avis aux concertans» [Advice to performers], Rameau writes, «Ces Pièces exécutées sur le Clavecin seul ne laissent rien à désirer; on n’y soupçonne pas même qu’elles soient susceptibles d’aucun autre agrément: c’est du moins l’opinion de plusieurs personnes de goût & du métier que j’ai consultées sur ce sujet, & dont la plûpart a bien voulu me faire l’honneur d’en nommer quelques-unes.» [“Performed on harpsichord alone, these pieces leave nothing more to be desired; one would not even suspect that they may be played with any other adornment: that is at least the opinion of several persons of taste and authority whom I have consulted on this subject, in most cases honouring me by naming some of the pieces.”]

Rameau’s 1741 edition contains his own solo harpsichord arrangements of La Livri, L’Agaçante, La Timide (comprising two Rondeaux gracieux), and L’Indiscrète, each representing a movement from Concerts I through IV. In addition to the purely practical and secondary function of filling blank pages necessitated by page turns in the original edition, these alternative versions provide telling insights and clues; they are illuminating exemplars demonstrating how the remaining pieces may be realized in a similar manner. The composer explains, «J’ai tiré de ces Concerts cinq petites Pièces pour le Clavecin seul, à cause de quelques différences qui s’y trouvent lorsque le Violon & la Viole les accompagnent.» [“I have arranged from these Concerts five little pieces for solo harpsichord, because of a few differences encountered when performing them without the violin and viol.”] A study of Rameau’s arrangements reveals his technique of refashioning passages, particularly where the violin and viol take the fore. Elsewhere, the obbligato harpsichord part is virtually unchanged, the accompanying parts being judged dispensable.

In writing my own solo arrangements of the remaining pieces from the Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts, I have used Rameau’s arrangements as models. In certain cases only discreet changes to the original obbligato harpsichord parts were required (Le Vézinet, La Boucon). In others it was necessary to undertake a recasting of the music (Tambourins, La Forqueray, La Cupis), at least to the extent that Rameau demonstrates through his own examples. Under the heading «Avis pour le clavecin» in the 1741 edition, the composer also offers very specific practical advice on adapting certain pieces (Tambourins, La Pantomime, La Rameau) as harpsichord solos. These suggestions have been incorporated in my arrangements.

Compiling the present volume by uniting my arrangements with Rameau’s, I have desired to show the composer’s arrangements as part of a complete whole, in contrast to their usual appearance in most modern editions as ostensibly ‘orphaned’ harpsichord pieces. It is hoped that – alongside the original settings, and orchestral settings of some pieces in the operas and ballets – this volume may provide new perspective, and an additional source of enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of Rameau’s art.