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Retrospect Ensemble - JS Bach Harpsichord Concertos - Gramophone


01 January 2013
Gramophone
Lindsay Kemp

The brightness and rightness of the sound is what strikes you immediately about this new recording of four of Bach's seven solo harpsichord concerto's. Many other recordings make you aware by sheer awkwardness of balance that they are adaptations for particular circumstances of concertos originally written for other instruments, leaving you reluctantly to conclude that they never quite worked for Bach either. Not so here. The harpsichord has tone and resonance, yet is not so closely miked that the strings sound like they have been banished to an outer realm; instead they have pleasing presence, offering a rich complimentary texture in which you can hear every line. 

And what better piece to demonstrate that than the joyous BWV1057? About as familiar as a Bach work as there is in its original form as Brandenburg No4, it emerges in this version, in which the harpsichord replaces the violin, in a refreshing new light, especially in the marvel of life-enhancing counterpoint that is its finale. Further strength to the harpsichord's arm as a rightful part-owner of the piece comes in the moment when we might least expect it - the passage of dizzying violin bariolage in the Brandenburg finale, which is here transformed into a rattling keyboard tremolo and rendered totally convincing by Matthew Hall's muscular playing. The same applies in the bariolage passage in BWV1058, adapted from the A minor Violin Concerto.

This is a joyful and invigorating release. I look forward to more.


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J.S. Bach: Harpsichord ConcertosJ.S. Bach: Harpsichord Concertos