Bach: An Italian Journey

Bach: An Italian Journey
Luca Oberti, harpsichord
Outhere/Arcana A443. 71’18

This 2018 release is from a harpsichord player that I am not familiar with. His programme gathers together pieces with an Italian influence, including transcriptions of concertos by Vivaldi and Marcello, and pieces of Italian inspiration like the Aria Variata alla maniera Italians and the Capriccio sulla lontananza del fratello dilettissimo. It finishes, inevitably, with the Italian Concerto.

The harpsichord is a copy by Keith Hill of a 1769 Pascal Taskin instrument. Whether the date of the instrument, or its French style is appropriate for a German composers take on Italian music is open for discussion. It is pitched at a=415 and is tuned in a temperament “after Neidhart”, but without specifying which one. The recording acoustic is appropriate, combine detail with ambience.

Although the playing is generally fine, I do have some concerns. In the Concerto in D Major, BWV 972  after Vivaldi, I am not convinced by the overly percussive staccato chords of the accompaniment in the central Larghetto. Similar staccato issues arise in the opening of the first and middle movement of the Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974 after Allesandro Marcello’s well-known Oboe Concerto. I don’t recall hearing these passages played in such a way before, and I find very little musical justification for them. In all these instances, a detache style of articulation would have made far more musical sense. I also found the opening of the last movement of the Vivaldi Concerto rather mannered. Once it gets going, is taken at quite a lick, although this use of speed is not an issue with other parts of the recording. 

To get a flavour of the playing style, this rather curious promotional video includes some performance shots.

Concerto in D Major, BWV 972 (after Vivaldi, Op 3/9, RV 230)
Fantasia and Fugue in A Minor, BWV 904
Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974 (after Marcello Oboe Concerto, S.D935)
Capriccio sopra la lontananza del suo fratello dilettissimo, BWV 992
Aria variata alla maniera italiana, BWV 989
Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto, BWV 971