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Bach - Complete Harpsichord Concertos Box set, Classical
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The sound on this recording is vivid, even though some of the recordings are analogue (i.e. ADD rather than DDD) but don't let that minor issue deter you. If you want to hear all of Bach's extant harpsichord concertos, then look no further (well, do consider Egarr as well! ;-)). The English Concert play with style, power and panache. Mr. Pinnock is an excellent harpsichordist and he understands this music very well.
Highlights? The very poetic and, damn it!, sexy interpretation of the second movement of the F minor harpsichord concerto and the dazzling "harpsichord galaxy" of the concerto for four harpsichords (ripped off from Vivaldi's quadruple violin concerto, as you know!).
Lovely sounds and music I like to listen to whilst having a glass of wine on a cool sunny afternoon, as I am doing as I write this review.
The endearingly quirky cover design of three plump cherries is somehow wholly apt: they refer to the label and also to how each of these concertos presents a trio of luscious, beautifully proportioned movements as perfectly satisfying and life-enhancing as a feast of fresh fruit. Trevor Pinnock's playing is beyond reproach, even - or especially - when he takes the Allegro of BWV 1055 or the Presto of BWV 1056 faster than at first seems advisable and the strings of the English Concert are as fleet and fluent as he is; their unity is wonderfully precise. Pinnock is joined in the concertos for 2, 3 and 4 harpsichords by equally distinguished musicians and the whole enterprise just exudes a serene confidence and joy in their music-making.
Part of the pleasure of this set derives from recognition of how Bach reworked music more familiar in another guise and key; hence we hear the fourth Brandenburg Concerto and the two surviving violin concertos transposed down a tone and reworked in a way which combines familiarity and novelty. Just when you might start to feel that you'd like some variety in the sonority from a surfeit of twanging harpsichord, no. 1057 gives us two mellow recorders to provide bucolic delight.
The sound is superb, achieving great clarity and depth. It might well be that the balance between the harpsichord(s) and orchestra has been judiciously tweaked but it doesn't sound artificial.
I also very much enjoy the arrangement of some of this music for piano of which there is an excellent bargain Naxos recording but this Trio collection provides a complete and utterly seductive survey of Bach at his most inventive and irrepressibly melodic.
The performance by Pinnock and the English Concert is stellar. Definitely not to be missed of you enjoy Harpsichord music.
Somewhere along the line, I learned that in the French of the day, "baroque" meant crazy. The people who listened to this music weren't effete stay-at-homes. They were opening the world (for good or ill). As elaborate and intricate as this music is, what it isn't is weak, be it on organ, harpsichord, or orchestra.