20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset | Playbill

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Classic Arts Features 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset Christophe Rousset has long been one of the bright lights of the early music and period instruments scene. We catch up with the French-born musician, whose brand new Rameau recording is now available in both CD and digital download formats.


At twenty-two he won the prestigious First Prize, as well as the Public Prize, in the Seventh Bruges Harpsichord Competition (1983). He performed with Les Arts Florissants and then Il Seminario Musicale before embarking on a career as a music director, which led him to form his own ensemble, Les Talens Lyriques, in 1991.

A prolific recording artist, with releases on both major and independent labels, Rousset has a distinguished discography that includes the complete harpsichord music of Couperin, Rameau, d'Anglebert and Forqueray, the great keyboard works of J.S. Bach, and a host of baroque operas _ including lesser known French works and important scores that he discovered. His two most recent recordings are an all-Handel album with Les Talens Lyriques and mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (Virgin Classics), and a solo harpsichord album featuring transcriptions of the complete instrumental music from Rameau's opera Les Indes galantes (ambroisie/naÇve).

1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Monteverdi Eighth Book of Madrigals; Mozart CosÐ fan tutte; Schumann Piano Concerto; Debussy Pell_as et M_lisande

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

Harnoncourt/Gruberova Concert arias/Mozart; Gardiner Idomeneo/Mozart, S.Richter Waldszenen/Schumann; Abbado Pr_lude _ l'aprs-midi d'un faune/Debussy

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

I'll have to get back to you on this one!

4. Music that makes you cry _ any genre:

So much in Mozart; second movement of Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto; Brahms' Deutsches Requiem

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

Leonardo Leo, a great composer

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

Vivaldi and Donizetti

7. Live music performance (s) you attended _ any genre _ that you'll never forget:

Krystian Zimmerman piano recital in Menton festival (when I was a child) and Les Troyens by Berlioz in Paris conducted by Gardiner with Susan Graham and A.C. Antonacci.

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut; Cronenberg's Eastern Promises

9. A few films you consider classics:

Fellini's La dolce vita; Godard's Pierrot le fou; Lynch's Mulholland Drive; Wilder's Sunset Boulevard

10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):

Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu. Why? Because it teaches me to live better.

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you're most proud of:

Being sincere and truthful (it has cost me some effort!)

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you're embarrassed by:

Getting angry too easily

13. Three things you can't live without:

My harpsichord, a lover, and a project for the future

14. "When I want to get away from it all I..."

Go to my place in Tuscany in the hills and dream

15. "People are surprised to find out that I..."

Am more tender than they expect me to be. And that I actually press my own olive oil with the olives I grow!

16. "My favorite cities are..."

Paris, San Francisco and Florence

17. "I have a secret crush on..."


18. "My most obvious guilty pleasure is..."


19. "I'd really love to meet _ or to have met..."


20. "I never understood why..."

I insisted being a musician, but now I guess I have to keep on...


21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):

Q: Do you think human being is going to survive the crisis of civilization we are living now?

A: Our civilization is like an adult in his 40s having his crisis and having the choice of getting fat or having plastic surgery or just deciding to concentrate on "higher" matters, like philosophy, arts and ethics. Everything is still possible, but getting fat is probably the most likely. Valuing the head, the intelligence, and not the body is something requiring great maturity, I suspect.

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs.

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire."

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