Works for one & two harpsichords
Guillermo Brachetta, Menno van Delft
Resonus RES10189. 56’24
I have reviewed harpsichordist Guillermo Brachetta recordings on Resonus favourably several times before (here) but was almost immediately put off this CD by the overly mannered playing of Bach’s opening Italian Concerto (BWV 971), particularly the first two movements. Lingering on notes to this extent not only disrupts the flow of the music and the underlying pulse but, in my view, is alien to the Baroque concept of performance style as I understand it. That said, I am glad that I continued listening to the CD as this aspect of performance is not as apparent in the later pieces, even in the pieces by WF Bach and Graun where, arguably, such flexibility of rhythm and articulation might be considered rather more appropriate. Interestingly there is also no recurrence in the other JS Bach piece, the Concerto a due Cembali in C major (BWV 1061a) performed with Menno van Delft. This is the assumed original version, from around the same time as the Italian Concerto, which was later turned into a concerto with added string accompaniment. For me, this performance is the highlight of the CD,
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach didn’t move as far from his father’s style as did his younger brother CPE Bach,. His Concerto in G major was composed a decade or less after his father’s Italian Concerto (although it is performed here in its 1775 revision) and retains much of the late Baroque style, albeit with some indications of the forthcoming post-Baroque style. The later revision has a much richer texture, with additional low bass notes, presumably intended for a much larger and more resonant harpsichord than the original.
The concluding Graun piece is interesting, not least in the fact that we do not know which of the two Graun brothers wrote it. Johann Gottlieb Graun was WF Bach’s violin teacher in Merseburg. Carl Heinrich Graun was born a year later, and was also a composer in Berlin. It was published in 1762 by John Walsh, probably as an arrangement of a harpsichord concerto (as Walsh also did with the music of Handel). It is easy to see why Walsh would have considered it a sellable item in mid 18th-century England, its tunefully simple style is very much in the style of the post-Handelian English composers of the time, in sharp contrast to the complexity of the Bach pieces.