CD review: Jean Rondeau’s Vertigo

First published in the Guardian on 25 February, 2016

Vertigo
Jean Rondeau (Erato)

Jean Rondeau (fine name for a baroque specialist) follows in the footsteps of Christophe Rousset as a dashing young French harpsichordist hyped as badass virtuoso, and the pressure to force out iconoclastic interpretations is as audible in his second solo album as it was in his first. He pairs music by Jean-Philippe Rameau and Pancrace Royer, explaining in the sleeve notes that he wants to explore the harpsichord’s shape-shifting position between public pomp and private expression. The playing is bolshy, for sure, and full of technical muscle. Royer’s Le Vertigo is bashed out with the kind of gleeful clatter I’d associate with chopsticks and teenagers. Rondeau does have a sensitive side — he captures some grace, space and poise in Rameau’s L’Entretien des Muses and in Royer’s La Zaide, his ornaments are clipped and stylish, his musical gait is stately in Royer’s Les Matelots and La Marche des Scythes — but the final balance is way more showman than intimate introspection.