Guest conductor and world-famous harpsichordist Christophe Rousset joins Mercury to lead a tour through the music of J.S. Bach and his progeny.
Christophe Rousset, harpsichord and leader
J.S. Bach Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C Major, BWV 1066
W.F. Bach Sinfonia in D Major, F. 64
C.P.E. Bach Concerto for Harpsichord in C Minor, Wq 43/4 (Christophe Rousset, harpsichord)
J.C. Bach Sinfonia in G Minor, Op. 6, No. 6
Support for this program generously provided in part by
The Texan French Alliance for the Arts
More about Mercury's Featured Artist, Christophe Rousset
Mercury is honored to welcome to the podium Christophe Rousset, renowned harpsichordist, founder of Les Talens Lyriques and noted Baroque music researcher. Season patrons and guests alike relish the opportunity to witness M. Rousset apply his skills as a scholar, researcher and interpreter of the Baroque mind to the Bach & Sons program. His many talents combine to make an unforgettable performance.
M. Rousset began his journey into Baroque music in his childhood home of Aix-en-Provence, France. A student of history from an early age, he combined his young interests with his musical talent expressed through the harpsichord. He studied at the Schola Cantorum in Paris and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. International attention rewarded his talent, and in 1991 he pursued his interest in conducting by forming the ensemble Les Talens Lyriques, now an internationally acclaimed and widely-traveled vocal and instrumental group with special emphasis on the music of the 18thcentury.
Passionate in all that he does, M. Rousset has discovered original scores, recorded numerous works with Les Talens Lyriques, taught Baroque music classes and served as musical director for a film. Individually he has recorded extensively, including the complete harpsichord works of Francois Couperin, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Jean-Henri d’Anglebert and Antoine Forqueray. Among his other recordings he numbers an ample repertoire of J.S. Bach. Not to be overlooked are his efforts as a teacher and mentor.
M. Rousset places great emphasis on the history and heritage of music. He has worked in various genres of the Baroque period, including motets, madrigals, cantatas and French Court arias, exploring the style specific to each. His musical endeavors are a voyage of discovery, highlighted by excitement and a freshness that makes the Baroque come to life once again for music aficionados and musicologists the world around.
Fulfilling a busy itinerary and traveling extensively for international performances, M. Rousset now brings his talents and vision to the stage with Mercury. This both reinforces Mercury’s collaboration with other groups in baroque music and opera, and extends that collaboration to new vistas. Our perceptive and knowledgeable regular audience and newcomers will alike be inspired by the insight, scholarship and vigor of these new horizons.
Please visit www.lestalenslyriques.com for the group’s itinerary, discography and more.
M. Rousset was the recipient of the First Prize and the Public Prize in the Seventh Bruges Harpsichord Competition 1983; and is a Commandeur des Arts et Lettres, and “Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite“.
Q&A with Christophe Rousset - by Mercury Board Member, Tim Howard
Tell us about your early interest in archaeology and your discovery of baroque era scores – how do you do it?
I grew up in Aix en Provence; a town rich in history. Provence was historically a Roman province; therefore a lot of ruins and archeological sites are numerous near Aix. I especially remember a Roman road, discovered during a phase of urbanization in Aix. Also, a Roman Galera found in what used to be Marseille’s harbor. Those discoveries excited my imagination as a child. Aix is also a beautiful Baroque city; called “The Little Rome of Southern France”, because of its Baroque palaces and fountains - and the light of course. I was inspired by this architecture in my youth. As a conductor today, I am discovering forgotten scores of the Baroque répertoire, which is a wonderful experience, being both an archeologist and a fan of the Baroque era.
You have recorded many CDs; does one particular project come to mind – memorable experiences, humorous situations or an occurrence of personal significance?
Humorous was the recording of Farinelli's soundtrack; having 2 singers for 1 singing line. Impressive was the recording of Mozart's Mitridate, with so many stars: Bartoli, Dessay, Piau, Sabbatini. And memorable, of course, are almost all of my solo recordings on original instruments. Old harpsichords teach you how to play them: it is always quite an experience.
How do you manage to record, perform and conduct – as well as research? That is a busy schedule!
You forget teaching! Well, I like being busy, and what I especially like in my life is variety - the best way to never get bored.
What caused you to start conducting? Do you see yourself now as primarily a conductor?
It is a fact that I was quite happy behind my harpsichord, and had no ambition to become a conductor. As William Christie’s assistant on harpsichord, I gradually moved to conducting. But that was more about making music to a larger scale; especially opera, which always fascinated me. And now I don’t consider myself more of a conductor. I still play the harpsichord often and enjoy playing chamber music. But obviously, the gap between a solo prelude on my instrument and a Beethoven symphony in front of an orchestra is quite big! It makes my life interesting… and challenging.
What are your thoughts and hopes about performing with Mercury, and visiting Houston?
I am sure I'll enjoy myself; beautiful repertoire, good players - it should make a good concert. And visiting Houston is exciting, because it's my first time in Texas, and I know the Museum of Fine Arts is very rich.
What was it like to be the music director for a film, Farinelli Castrato?
It was fun - meeting the film director, trying to understand his views, searching for a repertoire, going into the castrato world, which is now well known but then wasn't very popular. Then finding 2 voices possible to mix. Then recording - including very short takes for short sequences, which of course aren't on the CD. I just regret not appearing in the movie itself…another time!
Tell us more about your teaching of Baroque music at Accademia Musicale Chigiana – is it performance, theory, history? What do the students like the most, and what will most of them do after the training?
At the Accademia Chigiana, it was harpsichord teaching, mostly to young Italian players; performance practice, interpretation and philosophy about music and being a performer. The students prefer to play. I show quite a lot myself, playing for them. What will they do afterwards? Well, I am proud to say that several of them received prizes in international competitions around the world.
Tell us a little bit about any composers or pieces of music of the Baroque era (or any era) that you especially like or enjoy.
Well as you know, the Baroque era is my field. I can tell you that I don’t especially enjoy Vivaldi (a little too dull for me) or virginalist music on harpsichord (a little boring to my taste), but I tend to consider the music I am working on right at the moment as the most beautiful, ever. But true, there are some tremendous pieces that are outstanding, such as the opening chorus of St. John’s Passion, or Overtures in Rameau. On the harpsichord, I am partial to the 4th Partita, or all of Couperin!
What do you enjoy outside music – sports, recreation, hobbies?
I hate sports; I guess my sport is conducting (especially opera, and even moreso, arythmical singers!!)
Otherwise I like cooking (vegetarian), I love reading (Proust and Musil are my favorites), and paintings from the 15th to 18th centuries.
If you were to follow another career besides music, what would it be?
Tell us about your favorite attraction in Paris (restaurant, museum, park).
Boulangerie Keyser has the best bread in town for breakfast; Café de Flore for meetings, Musée Jaquemart André for its collection, and Jardins du Luxembourg - the most civilized in town.
Please add any personal observations that would be interesting for the Mercury audience.
I am a normal man with no special nostalgia for the past - but with no fascination for our cruel, modern world - seeking beauty in any form.