• Alexander's Playlist: Rameau: The Keyboard Works

    By Alexander Neef

    General Director Alexander Neef shares his favourite music recordings in this series of weekly recommendations.

    Rameau: The Keyboard Works
    Marcelle Meyer, pianist
    Erato Records, 1954


    After taking a sojourn through Parsifal and The Marriage of Figaro, which were meant to be our fall operas this season, I wanted to offer something completely different for this week’s recommendation: Rameau: The Keyboard Works, recorded by the French pianist Marcelle Meyer and originally released in 1954.

    Meyer is one of the most mesmerizing pianists of the 20th century. Notable for her creative connection to Les Six, a group of French avant-garde composers whose membership included Francis Poulenc, Meyer was the go-to interpreter of this loose collective, which had been propelled into the world by the efforts of the extraordinary Jean Cocteau. (A painting by Jacques-Émile Blanche, Le Groupe des six, depicts Meyer in a prominent central position, with Cocteau and Poulenc standing in the background, testifying to the vital role she played in the Parisian music scene and artistic life of the early 20s).

    Meyer’s legacy as a performer and recording artist is vast and diverse, and she is remarkable for her recovery of early keyboard music. Composers like Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) were overlooked by Meyer’s contemporaries, but her interpretations helped bring this work from the neglected margins into serious consideration.

    When I listen to these recordings, what strikes me about Meyer’s approach is the modernity of her conception of the music – if the sound quality was just a little bit better, you would think this was an artist working in the 21st century. She was truly ahead of her time in breathing new life into this repertoire and redefining its possibilities.

    Finally, and fittingly as we enter into August, I want to note that so many of Rameau’s pieces are perfectly suited for the summertime. It’s elegant music, light and subtle, which Meyer brilliantly elevates through her exquisite playing.

    ––Alexander Neef



    Music credit: Rameau: The Keyboard Works. Marcelle Meyer, pianist, 1954. Erato Records

    Posted in Alexander's Playlist

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