Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bach JS - Complete Concertos for Solo Harpsichord - Elizabeth Farr

 

 

Among the wealth of works composed during his Weimar period, J.S. Bach made 22 keyboard transcriptions of concertos by Italian and German composers: six for two keyboards and pedal (BWV 592–596) and sixteen for keyboard (BWV 972–987), the latter of which are recorded here by multi-award-winning harpsichordist Elizabeth Farr. Complementing these masterful transcriptions is the Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV894, which Bach later reworked as the opening and closing movements of his Triple Concerto BWV1044

The concertos were composed in his younger years, they may well have been used to frequent himself with the Italian school, the physical task of copying music an accepted learning tool in those days. Yet the reason may have been more mundane, as the nephew of his employer, Duke Wilhelm, Elizabeth Farr had travelled to Amsterdam where he apparently heard organists playing transcriptions, and Bach, anxious to please the Duke, performed the same task for his nephew’s use. All sixteen that are scored for solo keyboard are here included, together with an original Prelude and Fugue, BWV894, composed in the same era. They date from the early years of the 18th century, and would have also served the purpose of allowing people to hear concertos of Vivaldi, Torelli, Marcello, Telemann and Ernst in locations where no instrumental ensemble existed. Bach only used concertos where the solo was given to a stringed or woodwind instrument, and seems particularly taken by Vivaldi who accounts for six of the transcriptions—three lifted from L’estro armonico—Bach so skillfully marrying the solo role and the orchestra as to create seamless keyboard scores. There are three concertos where the originator is unknown, which is unfortunate as the one in G minor (BWV983) is a particularly attractive score. Played, as here, on a two-manual period reproduction harpsichord from Keith Hill, with the disposition 16’8’8’4’ and two buff stops, gives Farr the power that can almost equate to a small Baroque ensemble. Her playing is clearly articulated and tempos chosen to keep the music pressing admirably forward, while the Prelude and Fugue is an extended and welcome addition to the release.The sound is punchy, and as I like my harpsichord sound up-front and clinically clean, I find the discs admirable.—David Denton

CD INFO

Flac, covers

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