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Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord, Conductor)

Born: April 12, 1961 - Avignon, France

The remarkable French harpsichordist (and conductor), Christophe Rousset, had studied piano as a boy, before he became deeply interested in the harpsichord at the age of 13. He got his training with with André Raynaud and Huguene Dreyfus at the Schola Cantorum in Paris from 1980 to 1983, and won there special certificate of distinction. Then he was a student of Kenneth Gilbert before completing his studies with Bob van Asperen (harpsichord), the Kuijken brothers and Lucy van Dael (chamber music), and Gustav Leonhardt (interpretation) at the Royal Conservatory of Music at The Hague (soloist diploma, 1983). In 1983 he took 1st prize at the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges.

Soon after winning the Bruges competition, Christophe Rousset began a professional career, in which he rose quickly in the ranks of the world's harpsichordists. He soon appeared at some of the most prestigious early music festivals, including those of Aix-en-Provence, Saintes, Veaune, Utrecht, La Roque d'Anthéron, and Les Printemps des Arts de Nantes.

Christophe Rousset is one of the finest and most exciting harpsichordists, and as a conductor is a leader in the late 20th century revival of French Baroque music. He has won critical accolades for his extraordinary command of the harpsichord repertory. He particularly excells in the music of the French school, giving particularly outstanding performances of François Couperin and Rameau.

As a specialist in Baroque harpsichord Christophe Rousset often performed the harpsichord continuo parts in ensemble music. For the most part in the Baroque era, ensembles were led by the harpsichordist. Thus it was natural that his harpsichord appearances with such established authentic instrument ensembles as La Petite Bande, Musica Antiqua Köln, The Academy of Ancient Music, Il Seminario Musicale, and Les Arts Florissants led him to an interest in leading a Baroque ensemble.

In 1991 (or 1992), he founded such a group, which he named Les Talens Lyrics. This title, meaning "Lyrical Talents," is the name of a 1739 collection of compositions by Jean-Philippe Rameau. He and his group of young Baroque players adopted this name not only because it was snappy and imposed a certain requirement to live up to, but it also indicated their interest in reviving French Baroque music. Moreover, they intended to explore the connections between the distinct national styles of France and the other major European nations of the Baroque era (including England). In particular, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens explore the vital interchange of music that took place between France and the Kingdom of Naples. The group is flexible in size. It may amount to as little as five singers and players for a performance of court vocal works, or up to forty in playing opera and oratorio.

An important introduction of Les Talens came in 1993 at the Festival de Beaune, when they performed Scipione by George Frideric Handel. The same year they presented L'Incoronazione di Poppea of Monteverdi at the Amsterdam Opera. They have also played ballets and operas of Cimarosa, Berutti, de Mondonville. They have recorded Henry Dumont's Motets en Dialogue, Jean-Marie Leclair's trios, G.F. Handel's Scipione and Richard the First, Jommelli's Armida Abbandonnata, ouvertures of Rameau, and the soundtrack for the movie Farinelli, which is about one of the leading castrato singers of the Baroque. The Farinelli soundtrack had extraordinary sales for an early music classical release, selling well over 600,000 copies worldwide. Les Talens Lyriques is intended to track the Neapolitan-Parisian connection up to the time of the emergence of Rossini. In 2000, Rousset moved a step towards that by conducting Mozart's Mitradate at the Opéra National de Lyon.

Christophe Rousset recorded for the Decca record label and its early music imprint L'Oiseau-Lyre, both as soloist and as conductor of Les Talens Lyriques. His recording of the Piéces de Clavecin of Rameau won the 1992 Gramophone Award for Best Baroque Non-Vocal Release and the Belgian Cecilia Prize. He has also made recordings for other labels, such as Harmonia Mundi, Fnac Music, EMI-Virgin, Naïve and Ambroisie.

More Photos

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); All Music Guide Website (Author: Joseph Stevenson); Photos in lower line by Eric Larrayadieu
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2006)

Christophe Rousset: Short Biography | Les Talens Lyriques | Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach's English Suites from Christophe Rousset | Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset | Five Hours of Bach

Links to other Sites

Christophe Rousset (Official Website) [French]
Les Talens Lyriques - Christophe Rousset (Official Website)
Decca Music Group: Christophe Rousset
Christophe Rousset - Biography (AMG)

Christophe Rousset, Biography, Discography (Goldberg)
Christophe Rousset (Wikipedia) [English]
Christophe Rousset (Wikipedia) [French]
Library of Congress Presents Harpsichordist Christophe Rousset

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