Though barely known today, Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre was hailed as “the wonder of our century” in the 1690s. At age five De La Guerre sang for Louis XIV and remained at court until her marriage.
She was a keyboard virtuoso, with impressive improvisational skills. Contemporaries judged her on par with Marci-Antoine Charmpenie, François Couperin, Jean-Féry Rebel and just slightly below Jean-Baptiste Lully.
Her solo harpsichord works are very much in like with Couperin’s and Rebel’s. They’re collections of short dances grouped by key. The melodies are fairly simple, providing ample opportunities for ornamentation.
De La Guerre published her first collection in 1687, and her last in 1707. One can hear the development of her style. Her final suite sounds more tightly organized It also seems a little closer to the Italianate style that was gaining popularity at the time.
Francesca Lanfranco performs in a straightforward manner. Her delicate touch makes the ornamentations sound organic rather than fussy. The harpsichord recording is exceptional. There’s virtually no sound of the instrument’s action to detract from the music.
Lanfranco’s readings helped me understand why contemporary audiences thought so highly of de La Guerre’s work.
Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre: Complete Harpsichord Works
Franchesca Lanfranco, harpsicord
Brilliant Classics 95555
2 CD SET