Review by Isabelle Gallant
This season, the Indian River Music Festival hosted harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour for the first time. The Montréal musician played a concert of harpsichord favourites on a beautifully-decorated, custom-made French instrument. The large audience at St. Mary's Church on the night of July 13th was extremely appreciative of Monsieur Beauséjour's joking nature when speaking and quick fingerwork at the keyboard.
The first half comprised four short pieces by Jan Sweelinck, Johann Jacob Froberger and François Couperin and a French Suite by J.S. Bach. The Sweelinck was a stately, majestic Ballo del granduca. This was followed by the quirky, melancholic Tombeau fait Paris sur la mort de Monsieur Blancheroche by Froberger. The last measure of the piece consisted of a fast descending scale, symbolizing the death of Blancheroche when he fell down a flight of stairs. Two pieces by Couperin followed, one flowing and full of rubato, the other courtly and gracious.
Bach's French Suite in G Major was filled with decorations and emotion. This work is well-known among keyboard players and Bach enthusiasts. Beauséjour played a vigorous courante, a lullaby-like sarabande and a spritely gigue, among other movements.
The second half began with another suite, this one by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. The movements contrasted beautifully with one another. I particularly enjoyed the Rappel des oiseaux, which really did sound like two birds calling back and forth to each other. This work was followed by another Suite, by Antoine Forqueray. It was originally written for viola de gamba, and maintains its initial key, so is "dark and powerful" in tone, as Beauséjour said. The recital finished with three Scarlatti sonatas, one being the final encore. They were light and breezy-the third one especially dazzling.
As the church grew darker the harpsichord glowed in the light of candles placed on three alters surrounding it. One could almost imagine we were sitting in a French court of the 1600s. The instrument itself was made in Montreal in 1998 in the French style by Yves Beaupré. It has two manuals and a range vast enough for most solo repertoire as well as works for ensemble. Both the red-orange lid and black base are exquisitely decorated with golden oriental art.
Following the concert, Beauséjour explained how the harpsichord works and answered many questions from the people gathered to listen. A personable artist and a fantastic player, he was truly a fine addition to this summer's season.
Isabelle Gallant is from a musical family.