They spoke about it

Album information

Autumn 2017 marks the celebration of our 30th anniversary. It is to better serve our great Canadian musicians that the recording company Analekta was founded in 1987. Through the hundreds of albums and thousands of works recorded since its inception, Analekta has always strived to achieve perfection.

We are proud to have built a unique catalogue that has become an integral part of Canadian culture. We owe our success to the Canadian musicians who have, through their immense talent, created musical masterpieces now available across the world. Amongst these great pillars of the company we incontestably find Luc Beauséjour, one of the finest harpsichordist and organist of his generation. The accomplished musician was one of the very first artists to start recording with us on a regular basis.

This anthology underlines the 25th anniversary of his first recording with Analekta. It beautifully illustrates the musical horizons showcased in his 26 original recordings with us.

Thank you, Luc, for the wonderful heritage you have left in our catalogue and, more importantly, thank you for your touching contribution to our country’s culture.

François Mario Labbé, C.M., C.Q., ASC

Kenneth Gilbert, with whom I studied in Strasbourg, once told me, “You know, Luc, the hardest album to make isn’t the first, it’s the second!” Meaning that once the first recording is finished, you must immediately think about a follow-up. This advice served me well, but I was also fortunate to have the support of canadian-based recording label Analekta for my recording projects starting in the early 1990s.

In 1994, with the help of my friend Gisèle Pelletier, I launched an annual series of four harpsichord recitals in the chapel of Saint-Louis at Montréal’s Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and Clavecin en concert was born. After a few years, other musicians expressed a desire to perform with me, and Clavecin en concert gradually morphed into an ensemble of varying forces.

When François Mario Labbé suggested I create a compilation from my recordings over the past 25 years, I felt that the ideal distribution would be one that reflects my activities as both a soloist and musical director over the years.

1. The harpsichord

The sound of the harpsichord first came into our family home when my maternal grandmother gave us her turntable and records when I was a child. This was how I discovered Brandenburg concertos nos. 4 and 5, along with Bach’s famous Toccata in D Minor and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. But I first saw a harpsichord at a music camp founded by Père Lindsay, where one of the teachers taught a music history class to young campers in a modest cabin called “La Sorbonne” (I still enjoy saying that I first discovered the harpsichord at the age of 11 at the Sorbonne). A few years later, I remember a short TV interlude when I heard Couperin’s Les Barricades mystérieuses, and the instrument’s conquest over me was complete.

For the first album, I selected five recordings from a period of nearly 20 years. The first were made at the church in Saint-Alphonse-Rodriguez, in Québec’s Lanaudière region. Back then, playing in front of microphones was highly intimidating – and indeed one never really gets used to these intransigent devices. Bach’s Toccata in D Major, BWV 912, is one of my souvenirs of that first session. A few years later, I recorded 18 Scarlatti sonatas. I have always enjoyed these lively pieces that take your fingers up and down the keyboard. Then, just as I turned 40, I recorded the Goldberg Variations, a work I have performed regularly on three continents over the course of my career. The tenderness and delicate beauty of the opening “Aria” still delights me to this day.

Many of the works on this recording come from Famous Works for Harpsichord, which satisfied the many listeners who, after recitals, would ask if I had an album of the music they just heard. I also included several Bach organ works performed on pedal harpsichord. This instrument – of which no period example survives but which is known to have existed – is made up of two separate parts: a pedalboard, with its own case and keyboard (for the feet), and, above it, a single- or double-manual harpsichord. Montréal instrument maker Yves Beaupré made the pedalboard. Indeed, he has prepared and adjusted the harpsichords for all of my recordings. This recording features one of his most beautiful instruments.

The instruments of Yves Beaupré

Harpsichord (1985) after Johann Heinrich Gräbner the younger (1774) [tracks 5, 6, and 12]
Harpsichord (1995) after Jean-Henry Hemsch and Nicolas Blanchet [track 9]
Harpsichord (1998) after Jean-Henry Hemsch and Nicolas Blanchet [tracks 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, and 11]
Pedalboard (2010) under the 1998 Hemsch and Blanchet instrument [tracks 12, 13, 14, and 15]

2. The voice

Whether in Renaissance polyphony or Bach cantatas, I became fascinated by the voice from a very early age. During my years at the Conservatoire, I asked a young Karina Gauvin to sing at a Good Friday service. I was struck by how seriously she took it and the quality of her voice. Her breathing conveyed the music’s essence so perfectly, and even this brief glimpse foretold of her future success. Several years later, I asked if she would sing some excerpts from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach. It was her first recording! I remember her laugh and enthusiasm; it was as if Anna-Magdalena herself were there.

Occasionally, projects come from unexpected sources. Once, after a rehearsal of the St. John Passion with Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, I found myself with many of the soloists. After saying hello to Philippe Sly, whom I did not know well at the time, he affably mentioned our upcoming recording of Rameau cantatas. But I had not yet been informed of the project, so I was quite surprised to learn about it walking down the street!

Sometimes, a program develops out of simple curiosity. After reading about Giulio Caccini, I wanted to learn more about his daughter Francesca. So I asked soprano Shannon Mercer to look at her music, which led to our recording of works from this important composer. Also with Ms. Mercer, I had the idea of grouping arias from Bach’s cantatas and organ works around the liturgical calendar.

It was a real joy to work on a program of Handel’s music with Marie-Nicole Lemieux shortly after she won First Prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in 2000. I have always remembered what Lemieux’s teacher Marie Daveluy once told me about her brilliant student: “You know, Luc, it’s such an enveloping voice. You just want to immerse yourself in it”.

My most recent project with a singer was a recording of Vivaldi and Handel arias with mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne. Her timbre, musicality, and ability to inhabit the characters never cease to move me.

3. Chamber and organ music

When I performed the Goldberg Variations for the CBC at Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, I had no way of knowing that violinist James Ehnes was listening. A few months later, I learned that he had suggested to Analekta that we record Bach’s six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord together. Life is full of surprises…

The second of Couperin’s Concerts Royaux is played by “Baroque” musicians with whom I perform regularly: flutist Grégoire Jeay, violinist Chantal Rémillard, oboist Matthew Jennejohn, gambist Margaret Little, and bassoonist Mathieu Lussier. The “fifth concert” of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts, was part of a program that Argentinian gambist Juan Manuel Quintana and I developed. On this occasion, Grégoire Jeay played flute and Hélène Plouffe played violin.

As an organist, I have been fortunate to record on instruments that illustrate the excellence of Québec’s organ makers. Cabezon’s Tiento and Froberger’s Cappriccio II were recorded at a concert given on the Juget-Sinclair organ in the chapel of the Musée de l’Amérique francophone in Quebec City. It is a faithful copy of the 1753 organ in Quebec City’s cathedral, which was destroyed during the English siege of the city six years later. The instrument’s meantone temperament is clearly audible in the chromatic passages, adding delightful colour.

Böhm’s Vater unser im Himmelreich (Our Father in Heaven) and Brunhs’ Praeludium were played on the 32-stop Hellmuth Wolff organ, installed in 1991 in Toronto’s Knox College Chapel. The instrument was built after Swedish maker Johan Niclas Cahman, one of a long line of organ makers originally from Germany. While the ornate melody of Böhm’s chorale gives it a peaceful, arialike quality, the improvised character of Bruhns’ Praeludium is something else entirely, alternating free and fugal sections in typical stylus fantasticus fashion.

Bach’s chorales Das alte Jahr vergangen ist (The Old Year Now Hath Passed Away) and Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein (Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice) are played on a six-stop Hellmuth Wolff positive belonging to McGill University. And the chorale Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (Salvation Unto Us Has Come), from the Orgelbüchlein, was recorded on the 33-stop Karl Wilhelm organ built in 1973 for St. Matthias de Westmount church.

To conclude the third album, I added a ground attributed to Purcell and excerpted from my album Baroque session on piano.

© Luc Beauséjour

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