Thomas Tomkins may be the least known of the composers recorded here, but we unique insights to the Worcester composer, as his autograph manuscripts have been preserved in his own hand, in particular Re.1122 in the Bibiothèque National in Paris. This recording takes Tomkins advice to a copyist, or ‘lessons of worthe’, and applies it to a recital programme: “placed in their owne native keyes: not mingling or mangling them together wth others of contrary keys: But put in theyr Right places.” The pieces in G are played on a copy by Malcolm Rose of the harpsichord built by Lodewijk Theeuwes in 1579, now in the V & A; those is D are on a claviorgan. This hybrid instrument combines a harpsichord and an organ, both operated from the harpsichord keyboard. Here an Italian harpsichord by Philippe Humeau is coupled with a positive organ by Etienne Fouss. Lastly, the pieces in A are performed on a magnificent invention by the builder Philippe Humeau, a diminutive Italian harpsichord in sequoia with 8’ and 4’ stops.
All of these instruments are pitched at A440. Excellent booklet essay by Alan Brown.
Bertrand Cuiller is one of the most promising harpsichordists of today. This French prodigy studied with Christophe Rousset and Pierre Hantaï and was a prizewinner at the Bruges International Harpsichord competition. He has played with such prestigious ensembles as Le Concert Spirituel, Stradivaria, Le Poème Harmonique and La Rêveuse and has recorded for Alpha and Mirare.
“This is an ingenious programme, ordered by keys and instruments. All the pieces are selected by Thomas Tomkins's list of 'Lessons of Worthe' - and his endorsement is worthy of respect...A 58-minute disc seems rather parsimonious but, within it, Cuiller displays a remarkable range of colour.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 ****
“The wealth of colour is welcome, and Cuiller's masterful playing on the claviorganum makes one wish more harpsichordists would explore the instrument. Cuiller deftly manages the wild timbral contrasts of this hybrid instrument, using it to emphasise and clarify the counterpoint...He also has the imagination and essential command of the virginal idiom to make music that can come alive with an almost folksy directness.” Gramophone Magazine, February 2012
“Anyone still sceptical about the expressive potential of the harpsichord should be converted by this subtle and gentle survey of great 17th-century pieces...Cuiller is a master of the ebb and flow of harpsichord sound, the sustained resonance and eloquent overlapping of notes” The Observer, 31st July 2011
“a recital that reveals his dexterity and polish and the terrific variety that this repertoire harbours.” The Telegraph, 4th August 2011 ****