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Retrospect Ensemble - JS Bach Harpsichord Concertos - Audiophile Audition


30 October 2012
Audiophile Audition
John Sunier

Matthew Halls and his Retrospect ensemble (only founded in 2009) have recorded works of Bach before, and Halls' debut solo recording of The Goldberg Variations won praise from many critics. He has recently been named artistic director of next year's Oregon Bach Festival. Their name Retrospect refers to the ensemble not being restricted to one historical period or to a rigid number of musicians. They explore up to four centuries of repertory with vigor and fresh approaches.


Bach's harpsichord concertos were mostly created for a group of musicians who performed weekly-with free attendance for anyone- called the Collegium Musicum, and were stimulated by the availability of fine new harpsichords. For this recording, Retrospect consists of Halls at the harpsichord plus a septet of instrumentalists. The third one here, in d minor, is one of Bach's most virtuosic concertos-the most so of all seven concertos that he wrote. Its slow movement also appears in one of Bach's cantatas, and the concerto as a whole shows a strong influence of the music of Vivaldi.

All the concertos are performed with skill and elan, and the balance between the solo instrument and the ensemble is excellent. It's surprising that there is only one other SACD of four of the harpsichord concertos, and fortunately it duplicates only the Concerto in d minor. (I Barocchisi/Diego Fasolis, with harpsichordist Francesco Cera, on the Arts label {2008}.)


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Related Links

Retrospect EnsembleRetrospect Ensemble
J.S. Bach: Harpsichord ConcertosJ.S. Bach: Harpsichord Concertos