Bachs Mentoren

Bachs Mentoren (Bach’s Mentors)
Peter Waldner

Tastenfreuden 4. 75’16

This recording was self-pubished by Peter Waldner in 2012 as part of his Tastenfreuden series but has only just been sent to me for review. It includes music by the North German composers Buxtehude, Reincken and Bõhm, noted as Bach’s “mentors”, played on harpsichord, octave spinet and muselar. The word “mentor” might a little wide of the mark, as there is no evidence any of these three musicians actually taught the young Bach, although he was certainly strongly influenced by them in his early years.

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Bach: The Well-tempered Clavier, Book One

JS Bach: The Well-tempered Clavier, Book One
Colin Booth, harpsichord
Soundboard SBCD218. 2CDs, 59’31+62’12

This is the first of two double-CD volumes of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier) from Colin Booth. It covers the 24 Preludes and Fugues (BWV846-869) written in all 24 major and minor keys forming what is now known as Book 1 of ‘The 48’. It only survives in manuscript copies from 1722, with no printed edition unto around 1800. The manuscript title page announces that it was composed “for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study”. Continue reading

Royer: Premiere Livre de Pièces de Clavecin

Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer
Premiere Livre de Pièces de Clavecin
 Mie Hayashi, harpsichord
Resonus Classics RES10236. 65’11

Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (1703-1755) was an Italian born keyboard player who moved to Paris in his early 20s where he soon rose up the musical ladder. His first steps were as the maître de musique des enfants de France, directing the musical education of Louis XV’s children. He directed the Concert Spirituel along with Mondonville and worked at the Paris Opéra, where his best known opera was the ballet héroïquZaïde, reine de Grenade. In 1753 he became director of the chambre du roi and the orchestra of the Royal Opera. Continue reading

Handel in Ireland Vol.1

Handel in Ireland Vol.1
Bridget Cunningham (harpsichord)
Signum Classics SIGCD478. 72’52

This is a rather delayed review of a CD released in 2017. It is part of an ambitious series of Handel recordings from Bridget Cunningham and her London Early Opera, including Handel in Italy and Handel at Vauxhall, but this one is for solo harpsichord. This recording explores “some of the myths and mysteries surrounding Handel’s visit from London to Dublin in 1741 and reflects on the influences that Handel experienced from being in Dublin and also the inspiration he gave to others through his music and skills of improvisation at the keyboard”. Continue reading

Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier I

Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Klavier I
Steven Devine, harpsichord
Resonus Classics RES10239. 2 CDs. 55’06+56.13

This is the first of two double-CD volumes of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier), and covers the Preludes and Fugues 1 to 24 (BWV846-869) that form Book 1 of ‘The 48’. This musically intelligent and absorbing recording by Steven Devine demonstrates that performing Bach (or any music, for that matter) is far more the merely playing all the notes in the right order. His subtle use of articulation and rhetoric and his understanding of the Baroque idea of building up musical ideas from small motifs make for an absorbing recording that will invite repeated listening. He manages to negotiate that fine line between presenting a personal interpretation and those over-mannered performances that might be fine for a live recital but is usually off-putting on the repeat listening that a recording allows. With obvious respect to Bach and these extraordinary miniatures of musical craft, Devine brings a wide range of interpretations, matching the underlying mood of each Prelude and Fugue perfectly. Continue reading

Rameau: Complete solo keyboard works

Jean-Philippe Rameau
Complete solo keyboard works
Steven Devine, harpsichord
Resonus RES10214. 3CDs 79’26, 65’45, 73’28

This important recording of the solo keyboard works of Jean-Philippe Rameau brings together in a three-CD set, pieces previously only available as separate downloads from the Resonus website. For those who haven’t kept up with these recordings, or who want a hard copy of these performances, this three-for-the-price-of-one package is a must-buy. The three discs were recorded in St John the Evangelist, Oxford in December 2013 and April 2014, and in the Chapel of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge in August 2017. All use the same double-manual harpsichord by Ian Tucker based on a 1626 Andreas Ruckers of Antwerp, with a ravalement added in 1763 by Hemsch of Paris. The pitch is  a=415, and it is tuned in the non-specific Tempérament Ordinaire, in this context presumably meaning a modified meantone temperament. The three CDs follow a sensible order, giving an excellent overview of Rameau’s stylistic development from 1706 to 1747. Sadly, the title of ‘Complete solo keyboard works’ is correct: although he spent much of his early life as an organist, unlike many other French composers of the period, he left no compositions for the organ, although there are modern transcriptions available, in score, and on CD.  Continue reading