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GRAMOPHONE (05/2023)
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 Deutsche Gramophone

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Reviewer :
William Yeoman

French guitarist Raphaël Feuillâtre, here making his DG debut in fine style, says ‘Visages baroques’ refers to the ‘different qualities’ acquired by the pieces in arrangement and to ‘the many facets of the guitar’ revealed through those pieces.

The recital is more than that. It comprises linked portraits of the originals, hung in a gallery that occasionally veers into a baroque/Baroque hall of mirrors with transcriptions of transcriptions. It is therefore also a series of conversations. Finally it is, of course, a portrait of the guitarist himself.

Listen, for example, to Feuillâtre’s bouncy ritornellos, musical phrasing and shapely cross-string trills in Judicaël Perroy’s audacious arrangement for solo guitar of Bach’s audacious arrangement for solo harpsichord of Vivaldi’s D major Violin Concerto, Op 3 No 9. The effect of such an account relies in part on being preceded by Feuillâtre’s own masterly arrangement of ‘L’aimable’ from Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer’s Pièces de clavecin in an exquisite performance laden with myriad niceties of touch, tone and tempo. In short, Feuillâtre dares to exhibit personality, and the Rameau, Forqueray and Duphly likewise benefit, as does the superb account of Bach’s Partita in B flat, BWV825, in a skilful arrangement by Gerhard Reichenbach. The classical guitar is very good at this. Witness the decades of transcriptions and arrangements from harpsichord originals, born not just of necessity due to an impoverished repertoire but because of the guitar’s suggestiveness and ability to preserve many of the harpsichord’s evanescent charms.

For me, the gold standard for the performance of Baroque music (derived from harpsichord originals or otherwise) on the classical guitar is still David Russell. His Bach, his Handel, his Couperin, his Scarlatti: all are incomparable for style, musicality and beauty of tone. Although there is no overlap of specific pieces here, as I listened I wished at times for a similar breadth of conception. Nevertheless, Feuillâtre more than compensates with an uncommon breadth of spirit that shines through every note in this beautiful recital.

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