Artist Led, Creatively Driven

François Couperin’s Pièces de Clavecin
Book 2, 8th Ordre

Andrew Appel, harpsichord

Release Date: December 1st


Pièces de clavecin, Book 2, 8th Ordre (published 1716-17)

1. Allemande La Raphaéle
2. Allemande L’Ausoniéne
3. Premier Courante
4. Seconde Courante
5. Sarabande L’Unique
6. Gavotte
7. Rondeau
8. Gigue
9. La Morinéte
10. Passacaille

After enjoying the first two ordres from Book 2, after the feast of delicate sentiment, witty economy, ephemeral sensuality of Couperin’s modern style we might regret the absence of the gravity of so many moments in Book 1. The eight ordre dispels all such fears. La Raphaéle is the most expansive, varied, colorful, and powerful of Couperin’s classical and tragic works. It presents in sound a large history painting or a captivating ceiling work moving from the darkest of secrets to light filled sunrises. It is both orchestral and idiomatic to the keyboard. And it is as detailed as a soliloquy of Berenice or Pheadre.

This allemande grave also serves as an overture to a collection of works that insists on being heard in its entirety. There are two allemandes in contrasting styles (Grave and Corelli-like), two courantes, two gigues (French and Italian), two character pieces and the great Passacaglia. Every movement is extraordinary but the Passacaglia best illustrates the power and importance of French Baroque music.

The work is a rondeau. This predictable format promises a music that is balanced, comprehensible, and controlled. Yet here, courtly expression and classical clarity are at risk. The risk is a struggle between passion and poise. Each couplet in the Passacaglia reaches further and further into the flames of crisis, of overwhelming feeling culminating in the dissonant chords of the penultimate couplet and flight of the last. Both peace is shattered. The poetic façade, the need to please is abandoned for uncomfortable drama.

Andrew Appel, Artistic Director of the Four Nations Ensemble, performs throughout Europe and the United States as soloist in many festivals including Italy’s Spoleto Festival, New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival, and the Redwoods Festival. In 2023 Appel was invited to join the performers at Music from Marlboro. As recitalist, Mr. Appel has performed at Carnegie and Avery Fisher Halls in New York, as well as halls from the Music Academy of the West to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. Along with his focus on The Four Nations Ensemble, he has been a guest artist of Chatham Baroque, the Smithsonian Players, and Orpheus. He serves as harpsichordist for opera companies and has toured with several European chamber orchestras. He has enjoyed critical acclaim for his solo recording of Bach works with Bridge Records as well as his fortepiano performances of Haydn for ASV. He and the Four Nations Ensemble presently record for Orchid Classical in London.

As a writer, Mr. Appel has written program notes and articles for presenters around the country including Lincoln Center, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and National Public Radio. Mr. Appel has participated in discussions on education and chamber music programming at conferences of Chamber Music America, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and the New York State Council on the Arts. He has served as President of the Board of Trustees of Chamber Music America. He has been regularly praised for pre-concert talks that contextualize the music and open areas of discovery for the audience.

A native of New York City, Appel discovered the harpsichord at 14 and began lessons with Tim Read and Igor Kipnis. First-prize winner of the Erwin Bodky Competition in Boston, he holds an international soloist degree from the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp where he worked with Kenneth Gilbert and a Doctorate from the Juilliard School under Albert Fuller. There he has taught harpsichord and music history. Appel has also taught harpsichord, chamber music, music history and humanities courses at Moravian College, Princeton University, and New York Polytech, now a division of New York University.

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