The life and times of Gaspard le Roux are more than usually shrouded by the mists of time. He died in Paris, around 1707. Much else is guesswork. By that time he had become among the most renowned keyboard players in Paris, handsomely paid both for his compositions and his performances. As was common, he wrote music to play himself; the identification between composer and performer was as strong as it later became again in the 20th century with the advent of popular singer-songwriters.
The suites on this new recording were first issued by the distinguished publisher Etienne Roger, who also acted as an agent and promoter for Handel, among others. They are written as a richly ornamented sequence of dances, by turns measured and sprightly, full of courtly manners but at the same time not overlaid with formality.
Having consulted the manuscript sources, Pieter-Jan Belder has devised his own ordering of the suites, more complete than most other recorded versions. He has taken a view on the flexible structure of the original suites, which allows for them to be played solo, with another harpsichord or as trio sonatas with another melody instrument and a basso continuo. However, as van Belder points out in his own engaging booklet notes, ‘nowadays not so many people have two harpsichords at their disposal to be able to play these pieces at home with their friends. That is what we enjoyed most while preparing this recording. Imagine two middle-aged men enjoying a glass of wine and a cigar (although we don’t smoke) and playing two beautiful harpsichords instead of playing chess or or discussing life. You will then have the picture.’
Van Belder has made many albums for Brilliant Classics during the last two decades, including the peaks of the Baroque keyboard repertoire by J.S. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, Soler and many others. He is presently engaged on the mammoth project of recording the complete Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, of which the fourth volume (BC95254) was released earlier this year.
Gaspard le Roux (c.1660- c.1707) is one of the most enigmatic composers of late 17th century France, as there is nothing known about him, except a mention on a tax paper roll and his legacy of his “Pièces de clavecin”, which are recorded here for the first time complete.
Le Roux might be roughly placed between D’Anglebert and Couperin. His preludes are written in the “non mesuré” style, which means that the performer has to invent the rhythms himself, thus creating the required improvisational character of the music.
The special, basic notation of the music also leaves open the choice of instrument: the suites may be played in both solo and duo formation, that is for one or two harpsichords, both possibilities are presented on this recording.
Another excellent recording by Dutch keyboard player Pieter Jan Belder (“stand-out exponent in this repertoire” Musicweb) and Siebe Henstra, playing two brand new, magnificent harpsichords from Pieter-Jan Belder’s collection, built by Titus Crijnen after Ruckers and Blanchet.