*Home | *Essays | *Professional | *Productions | *Personal

Dr. Bradley Lehman

Dayton, Virginia

Reviews written for American Record Guide

On average, I write twelve reviews per issue of American Record Guide.

I cannot reproduce the full texts of the reviews here, as those are the property of the journal. Here are the review headers and some excerpted sentences, to make it easy to find my reviews in the printed version.

Enjoy the music!

Sep/Oct 2015

The King's Men: Fasch, Nichelmann, CPE Bach
Jermaine Sprosse, hpsi, fp
Klanglogo (Rondeau) 1505--64 minutes

This is spectacularly good. Young keyboardist Jermaine Sprosse plays sonatas and variations by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788), and sonatas by two of his colleagues: Christoph Nichelmann (1717-1762) and Carl Friedrich Christian Fasch (1736-1800). (...)

CHAMBONNIERES: Harpsichord Pieces 1
Karen Flint
Plectra 21501 [2CD] 151 minutes

(...) The present volume 1 has the 60 published pieces, out of about 150 that survive. Chambonnieres had them engraved in 1670, the first harpsichord music by anyone to be preserved in that manner. The remaining volume 2, which will be a three-disc set, is already recorded and in process. That will give us all the rest of the manuscript pieces. (...)

DIEUPART: Harpsichord Suites
Fernando Miguel Jaloto
Brilliant 95026 [2CD] 102 minutes

Charles Dieupart (c1667-c1740) was a French harpsichordist and violinist who spent much of his career teaching and performing in England. (...) The young Johann Sebastian Bach liked these suites enough to make himself a handwritten copy of them, perhaps coming from his brief time of study with Georg Bohm. (...)

HANDEL: Harpsichord Suites, vol 3
Gilbert Rowland
Divine Art 21225 [2CD] 130 minutes

Handel's published Eight Great Suites of 1720 are well-known. There is another rather sloppy volume from 1733, The Second Collection, with eight more suites and a few individual pieces. Gilbert Rowland's set here, "volume 3" of a now-complete cycle of three 2CD packages, stays mostly outside that core. (...)

Pleasures of the Harpsichord
Anonymous, Byrd, Sweelinck, Purcell, Frescobaldi, Scarlatti, Louis Couperin, Philidor, Francois Couperin, Daquin, Corrette, Rameau, Bach, Handel, Mozart
Olivier Baumont, hpsi
Bayard Musique 308430--50 minutes

This is a disc to promote tourism to the 16th-century Chambord castle, south of Paris, and a showcase for four harpsichords built 1994-2006 by Reinhard von Nagel. During harpsichordist Olivier Baumont's three-month residency at this castle, von Nagel and a recording team brought in these instruments to take advantage of the way they sound in the castle's acoustics. (...)

Thomas Schmogner
Paladino Music (Naxos) 0033--56 minutes

This is a co-publication by the Kunst Historisches Museum of Vienna (, to demonstrate what they claim to be the only playable "claviorgan" from the 18th century. (...) The most interesting piece to me is the Military Sonata by Ferdinand Kauer, with musical gestures to take us scene by scene through a Russian attack on the Ottoman Empire, 1787. The fantasias by Mozart, CPE Bach, and Joseph Preindl are engaging enough, with frequently-changing registrations. Preindl's piece is based on several themes from The Creation by Haydn. Schmogner adds tasteful ornamentation to Mozart's Adagio for Ben Franklin's glass harmonica. There are three aimless Beethoven pieces that sound like counterpoint exercises, and three others by his teacher, Albrechtsberger. (...)

Nov/Dec 2015

BACH: Preludes, Fugues, Fantasias, Suites, Capriccio
Aapo Hakkinen, hpsi
Naxos 573087--79 minutes

Finnish harpsichordist Aapo Hakkinen gives us a generous recital of less-familiar music by Bach: the suites BWV 818, 819, and 832, the E-major capriccio 993, fantasias 917, 918, and 922, and an assortment of short preludes and fugues. (...) Along with Hakkinen's imaginative playing, a selling point here is the famous instrument. It was Igor Kipnis's "Big Red" harpsichord by Rutkowski and Robinette, 1970. (...)

BIRD: The Oriental Miscellany (Airs of Hindustan)
Jane Chapman, hpsi
Signum 415--74 minutes

This is a major find, unexpected and charming, "perhaps the first work of East-West fusion", as the notes assert. William Hamilton Bird (c1750-c1804) spent many years in India, studying the music by Hindustani singers. He then transcribed their music as simple harpsichord solos for the young ladies of the British aristocracy, adding a left-hand part. (...)

DUPHLY: Harpsichord Pieces
Aya Hamada
LiveNotes 7784 (CDBaby)--72 minutes

This is a terrific solo debut by a young Japanese-American harpsichordist trained at Juilliard and in France. (...) Another draw here for harpsichord enthusiasts is the instrument: the "Lefebvre 1755" that Martin Skowroneck built in the 1980s for Gustav Leonhardt, in its first recording since Leonhardt's death. (...)

MUTHEL: Harpsichord Concertos
Marcin Swiatkiewicz, Arte dei Suonatori
BIS 2179 [2CD] 127 minutes

This premiere is like finding five more harpsichord concertos by CPE Bach. (...)

PLATTI: 7 Sonatas
Elaine Funaro, hpsi, fp
Wildboar 9901--77 minutes

This release of seven sonatas, selected from the extant 18 by Giovanni Benedetto Platti (1697-1763), is not new. Elaine Funaro recorded this in 1997 (fortepiano) and 1998 (harpsichord), engineered by Christopher Greenleaf and issued in 1999 by Wildboar. (...)

SMITH: Harpsichord Lessons; HANDEL: Richard I Overture
Julian Perkins, hpsi
Chandos 807--78 minutes

John Christopher Smith (1712-1795) was one of Handel's composition assistants near the end of his life. This set of "Six Lessons" is his Opus 3, published in 1755, and Julian Perkins gives it its premiere recording here, from sessions in 2011. (...)

Jan/Feb 2016

BACH: Partitas 1, 2, 6
Edna Stern, p
Orchid Classics 100050--71 minutes

Edna Stern has a terrific resume with great teachers, and she is an energetic musician with plenty of ideas. She produces an attractive piano tone, and makes the fingerwork sound easy. Her performance of Bach's music here is disappointing, though. (...)

SOLER: 120 Sonatas
Barbara Harbach, hpsi
MSR Classics 1300 [14CD] 1042 minutes (17 hours, 22 minutes)

(...) In the present attractively-packaged set of CDs, we get all 120 of Soler's sonatas that were collected in Samuel Rubio's edition from 1957 forward, but no Fandango. (...) This is singularly inexpressive harpsichord-playing, a refusal to use the techniques that build a colorful touch. (...) I hear no magic here, not even a card trick. It's a convenient way to have all this music in a small and well-produced package, plus a decent analytical essay by Harbach, if that's what you want for your $100.

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Lars Vogt, p
Ondine 1273--77 minutes

This is a bland and plain-spoken performance of Bach's set of 30 Goldberg Variations, staying far away from the edges of the beaten path. (...)

Mersenne's Clavichord: 16th & 17th Century France
Terence Charlston
Divine Art 25134--69 minutes

(...) Terence Charlston's performance is miraculous, with everything perfectly in place, and yet not sounding cautious. This is top-level work. There are no extant French clavichords of this vintage, so builder Peter Bavington worked from a 1636 drawing by Marin Mersenne to build one. Charlston chose (and, in some cases, arranged) this brilliant program to show what would have been played on it in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The result is one of the best clavichord albums I have ever heard. (...)

Cembalo Cantabile: Bach, Fiocco, Rameau, Scarlatti
Tatjana Vorobjova, hpsi
Amati 2602--61 minutes

(...) This is a general-interest recital of early 18th century music. True to the title of the album, "Cembalo cantabile", Vorobjova plays the harpsichord with a singing tone. (...)

En Sol: for the Sun King
Rebecca Maurer, hpsi
Genuin 15352--71 minutes

The composers here are d'Anglebert, both Couperins, Jacquet de la Guerre, le Roux, and Royer. The album notes describe king Louis XIV as dancer and supreme warmonger, dressed as the sun or Apollo, and the ways in which his interests influenced the music written for his court. Harpsichordist Rebecca Maurer has assembled this program to follow the formal layout of a ballet de cour. 21 of the pieces here are in G minor.... (...)

CIMAROSA: 88 sonatas
David Boldrini, fp
Brilliant 95027 [2CD] 148 minutes

These are the complete extant keyboard works of Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), primarily a composer for the stage. 88 sonatas fit into a two-disc set? Yes, they are very short, and David Boldrini skips all the repeats. 82 sonatas are for piano, and the remaining six are for harpsichord, but all are played here on fortepiano. (...)

Mar/Apr 2016

RAMEAU: Harpsichord Pieces
Blandine Rannou
Alpha/OutHere 309 [2CD] 138 minutes

The complete set of Rameau's harpsichord music was Blandine Rannou's first solo recording, made in the summer of 2000 and issued as Zig Zag Territories 10301, a 4-CD set. The solo music occupied the first three discs, and the ensemble version of "Pieces de clavecin en concerts" was on the fourth. The present set by Alpha is a budget-priced reissue of only discs 2 and 3 of that. (...)

20th Century Harpsichord: Poulenc, Francaix, Martinu, Durey
Christopher D Lewis, hpsi
Naxos 573364--60:05

Christopher D Lewis is a specialist in modern harpsichord repertoire, and a researcher into the instrument's use in pop music. This is his second recording for Naxos. (...)

BACH: Preludes & Fugues
Rinaldo Alessandrini, hpsi
Naive 30564--70:33

The program collects some stray bits from Bach's workshop, having 15 assorted preludes paired with 15 assorted fugues. Most are short and simple, except for the grander B minor pair at the end of the program: S 923 and 951, which is one of the two fugues by Bach on the same theme by Albinoni. (...)

GAGNON: 4 Seasons; Les Turluteries Suites 1+2
Jean-Willy Kunz, hpsi; Orchestre symphonique de la Vallee-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent, Daniel Constantineau
Atma 2715--65:17

(...) Andre Gagnon (b1936) in his thirties capitalized on Joshua Rifkin's "Baroque Beatles Book" fad of 1965, weaving popular tunes into fake-Baroque music; Gagnon's music was for the French-speaking market in Quebec. The "Turluteries" suites 1 and 2, from 1972, are obviously based on Bach's last two orchestral suites. Gagnon incorporated tunes of the Quebecois singer Mary Travers "La Bolduc" from the 1930s. "My Four Seasons" from 1969 are little three-movement concertos built on 1960s pop tunes by four other Quebecois singers. (...)

FRESCOBALDI: Keyboard Pieces 1
Rinaldo Alessandrini, hpsi and organ
Arcana/OutHere 388 [2CD] 146 minutes

Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583-1643) first published this book of keyboard music in 1615, and reissued it with an appendix of many additional pieces in 1637. His brilliant music is a cornerstone of the keyboard repertoire, and it has inspired many generations of composers and players. (...) The recording is from April and September 1992, when Alessandrini was only 32. This appears to be its fourth issue, beginning in 1993. (...)

May/Jun 2016

Because of distribution delays from the CD supplier, messing up the production cycle, my six reviews submitted for this issue were all deferred to the Jul/Aug issue.

Jul/Aug 2016

BACH: Violin Sonatas
Erich Hobarth, v; Aapo Hakkinen, hpsi
Aeolus 10236 [2CD] 120 minutes

Beyond the expected set of six sonatas, S 1014-19, this hybrid SACD recording includes the three probably-later sonatas S 1021-23. Overall, the easily-flowing interpretations offer few surprises. (...)

BACH: Chorales & Chorale Preludes
Anna Christiane Neumann & Anja Kleinmichel, p
Genuin 15375--69:33

Those seeking a devotional record will find this a beautiful and undisturbing one. "Bach Without Words" is arranged mostly as piano solos, and five of them are for piano four hands. Before most of the chorale preludes, Neumann plays a simpler four-voiced version from the Bach/Riemenschneider collection of 371 chorales. There are more than a dozen arrangers here beyond Busoni, showing the richness of this genre where ensemble music and organ solos have been adapted to the piano. (...)

BYRD: Harpsichord Pieces
Colin Tilney
Music and Arts 1288--62:33

This "Contrapuntal Byrd" program gives an enjoyable hour of some of William Byrd's longest pieces. About half of the selections are from "My Ladye Nevell's Booke". (...) All the music evokes a serene world different from our own, and is well worth spending meditative time in. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier I
Celine Frisch, hpsi
Alpha 221 [2CD] 103 minutes

I appreciate that this is very well done, but I don't fancy the results. It's a supremely difficult composition that sounds easy for Celine Frisch. Her Apollonian performance is perfectly polished, which is impressive in her technique and thoroughness, but it makes the music sound less interesting. (...)

DUPHLY: Harpsichord Pieces
Yves-G Prefontaine
Atma 2716 [2CD] 148 minutes

Prefontaine plays a personal selection of about half of Duphly's music, shuffling the four books together and grouping the pieces by key. His playing sounds ordinary. It is clean and there is flexibility to the phrasing, better than being metronomically stiff, but it doesn't bring much special or memorable to the pieces. (...)

ANGLEBERT: Harpsichord Pieces
Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Centaur 3455--79:14

This would be a suitably captivating place to start for those who do not know this composer. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert (1629-91) was one of the harpsichord superstars of 17th century France. (...) Charlotte Mattax Moersch gives a fine sense of air and space to her delivery. Everything is fit perfectly into place, flowing naturally, without ever seeming too fast or slow. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Erich Traxler, hpsi
Paladino 0073--77 minutes

The graphic design of the package is not very attractive, but the music is. Erich Traxler, an Austrian harpsichord professor aged 33 at the time, gives an interpretation that is mostly hard-edged and on the exciting side, instead of going for restfulness. (...)

TELEMANN: 6 Overtures
Anke Denner, hpsi
Genuin 16411--64 minutes

Anke Dennert plays these six three-movement Ouvertures on the well-known and much-copied 1728 Christian Zell harpsichord. (...) Telemann published these keyboard solo pieces in 1745, but they have not attracted much attention. They are in his imitation French/Italian/Polish blended style. (...)

Gaul Me Maybe: French Baroque
Daniel Schlosberg, p
Centaur 3477--51 minutes

Half the program is a remarkably good performance of Bach's French Ouverture, S 831. The rest is an assortment of short French Baroque pieces by d'Anglebert, Royer, Marais and Rameau, played with Schlosberg's compelling musical insight but infected by miscalculations. (...)

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 4
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 95254 [2CD] 133 minutes

Belder's project of recording the entire Fitzwilliam Virginal Book started in 2010. This volume 4 is up to his reliably high standard. (...) Belder's sweep through this music is impressive, and so is his meticulous fingerwork at the smallest levels. Something I always appreciate in Belder's musicianship is the way he makes every phrase sound confident and inevitable. (...)

British Harpsichord
Christopher D Lewis
Naxos 8.573668--71 minutes

Christopher Lewis's Naxos series of modern harpsichord music continues. (...) The obvious selling point here is "Howells' Clavichord" by Herbert Howells, filling a niche with music not otherwise available on harpsichord. (...) The music by Lennox Berkeley, Gavin Bryars and John Jeffreys is played on the same Pleyel harpsichord that Lewis used on the French/Martinu album. (...) The pieces by Jeffreys and Berkeley are charming and witty neoclassical trifles.

BACH: 2-4 Harpsichord Concertos; Triple Concerto, S 1044
Lars Ulrik Mortensen, Trevor Pinnock, Marieke Spaans, Marcus Mohlin, hpsi; Concerto Copenhagen
CPO 777681 [2CD] 106 minutes

(...) This is so good that I'd recommend it to friends who don't have any other recordings of the pieces, for the joy of the music played energetically. Concerto Copenhagen ("CoCo") and the harpsichordists make everything sound natural and vital, with moderate tempos and no eccentricities. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier I
Christophe Rousset, hpsi
Aparte Music (Harmonia Mundi) 120 [2CD] 125 minutes

Over a month of listening to this, I haven't found enough to enjoy. The main problem is that the harpsichord's tone is harsh and lacks bloom. (...) Rousset's interpretation is mostly moderate and straightforward, without much emphasis of detail. (...)

ROMAN: Keyboard Sonatas 7-12; AGRELL: Sonata 2
Anna Paradiso, hpsi and clavichord
BIS 2135 (SACD)--77 minutes

The packaging makes this look humdrum, but that first impression was wrong. This is keyboard musicianship so superlative that I stopped the player after 20 minutes and immediately placed an order for the other volume. It's that attractive and expressive. Anna Paradiso obviously listens very closely to her instruments as she plays them, and this makes her interpretations vivid. She makes the music sound freshly improvised by a creative genius. (...)

Masterworks & Miniatures: Renaissance Venice
Richard Lester, org and hpsi
Nimbus 5931--78 minutes

The music is by Willaert, Buus, Padovano, Merulo, Guami, and both Gabrielis: ricercars, canzonas, toccatas and intonations. (...) I admire this album for the way it presents plenty of rarely-played music. This is a didactic package worth having, for those interested in this repertory. (...)

GALUPPI: 6 Harpsichord Sonatas, op 1
Andrea Chezzi, hpsi
Brilliant 95253--54 minutes

Baldassare Galuppi was a theater man known for his operas and oratorios. He wrote these keyboard sonatas in the 1750s when he was in his mid-40s. There are six sonatas here, plus a bonus single-movement sonata in G not belonging to this opus. (...) The compositions are pleasant, not very challenging to listen to or to play. They could be mistaken for Telemann's music. (...)

Trevor Pinnock, hpsi
Linn 570 (SACD)--68 minutes

Trevor Pinnock at age 70 takes a "Journey" through 200 years of harpsichord music. (...) The Scarlatti sonatas here are outstandingly good. (...) The Handel Chaconne in G and "The King's Hunt" by Bull also catch him at his best, as if the music is being conducted with big gestures for a theater full of enthusiasts. (...)

PICCO: Original Sin
Cesare Picco, clavichord; Sezione Aurea Baroque String Quintet
Ishtar 35--40 minutes

The disc is mastered very loudly. The Baroque string quintet sounds harsh, except at low volume. Within that, the clavichord sounds abnormally loud in the mix. The string parts are mostly ostinatos, not melodically interesting. Composer Cesare Picco noodles ornamental lines and punctuating chords on his clavichord, on a Wurlitzer electronic piano, or sometimes both at the same time. (...)

BACH: Violin Sonatas
Leila Schayegh, v; Jorg Halubek, hpsi
Glossa 923507 [2CD] 95 minutes

Schayegh and Halubek have been playing these sonatas together for ten years, and it shows. This is like a championship figure-skating routine. Their fluent gestures challenge the laws of gravity. (...) This is a must-hear album. Some might not fancy the amount of freedom in the improvisations, but it sounds essential to me, the way they have integrated all this. (...)

Sep/Oct 2016

MOZART: Piano Sonatas 1-6
Roberto Prosseda, p
Decca 4812632 [2CD] 117 minutes

It's the cycle of Mozart's first six piano sonatas, written in his late teens. (...) If Roberto Prosseda continues what he's started here, I want to hear him play all the rest of Mozart's sonatas. Prosseda adds ornamentation, extends some passagework for extra bars, changes figuration or melodic shapes, and interpolates short cadenzas. (...)

BACH: Inventions & Sinfonias
Thomas Ragossnig, hpsi
Solo Musica 236--52 minutes

Bach's Inventions and Sinfonias, otherwise known as the Two- and Three-Part Inventions, are staples of keyboard and compositional pedagogy. Bach intended them as such, preparing them as a textbook for his children and his Leipzig pupils. (...) Ragossnig plays them on harpsichord, but recordings are available on every other keyboard instrument and in arrangements for strings, winds, guitars, and more. (...) The novelty here is that Ragossnig has re-sequenced all thirty pieces, instead of going upward chromatically twice, as we usually hear it from Bach's last versions. (...)

SCARLATTI: Sonatas, vol 4
Pierre Hantai, hpsi
Mirare 285--76 minutes

It's music to bring a smile and tapping toes. Hantai plays 17 sonatas here: Kirkpatrick numbers 212, 247, 144, 133, 204a, 279, 533, 405, 402, 403, 381, 208, 456, 457, 302, 201, and 45. (...) Hantai's performance manner keeps tempos basically steady, filling the space with small expressive nuances on top of a "hot" touch where he plays the notes very short. It makes the music sound energetic. (...)

ALBERO: Recercatas; Fugues; Sonatas
Alejandro Casal, hpsi
Brilliant 95187 [2CD] 109 minutes

Alejandro Casal deserves admiration for learning and presenting this fourth-rate music by Sebastian de Albero (1722-56), as few other keyboard players are likely to spend much time on it. The recercatas are meandering single-line pieces without much for the left hand to do. The sonatas have some crunchy cluster harmonies like those of Soler and Scarlatti. (...)

Jean-Christophe Dijoux, hpsi
Genuin 16420--82 minutes

Harpsichordist Dijoux won the 2014 International Bach Competition. I haven't heard the playing of his rivals from that contest, but it's easy to hear in this debut album why his artistry earned a prize. Dijoux has tremendous control of time, both in his phrasing and in the subtle art of not playing the notes together. His expressivity is impressive, too. He keeps the music interesting and makes it his own. (...)

CLERAMBAULT & MARCHAND: Harpsichord Pieces
Yago Mahugo
Brilliant 94790--77 minutes

This pairing of French Baroque composers is an apt choice, fitting neatly onto a single CD. All of their other harpsichord music is lost, leaving only these few suites by each from 1699-1704 and a few isolated pieces. It's a pity, because these compositions that did survive are very satisfying to play and to listen to, near the top of the French harpsichord repertoire. (...)

BACH, CPE: Variations
Andrea Coen, fp
Brilliant 95305 [2CD] 146 minutes

On paper, this is a good bargain at Brilliant's low prices. It's not a treasure, though. CPE Bach was a phenomenally creative composer, but he wasn't at his best in these pieces. It sometimes sounds more like finger exercises than music. (...) Coen gives fluent and reliable performances where few surprises occur. It sounds like a valiant effort in a lost cause. (...)

ZIPOLI: Keyboard Pieces
Carlo Guandalino, org; Laura Farabollini, hpsi
Brilliant 95212 [2CD] 148 minutes

Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), after studying in Bologna and Rome, published his thin volume of organ music in 1715. He then became a Jesuit missionary, and was set to become a priest, but he died of tuberculosis at age 38 before being ordained. His organ music sounds several generations behind its time, except for using seventh chords and some surprising chromaticism. (...) The second disc, with Zipoli's complete extant harpsichord music, has four suites and two sets of variations. (...)

FROBERGER: Harpsichord music, all
Bob van Asperen
Volume 3: Aeolus 10064 [2CD] 97 minutes
Volume 4: Aeolus 10074--75 minutes

Froberger was one of the best early-keyboard composers for the intensity of personality he expressed. (...) I had missed the van Asperen series the first time around, as my Froberger shelf already looked full enough. (...) It was an error to have missed van Asperen's through these years, because the performances and the booklets are so good. At hand for this review, volume 3 gives us Suites 7-12, 15, 17 and 21. Volume 4 has Suites 20, 27 and 30, a toccata, and several often-recorded character pieces, plus two newly-discovered suites. (...)

Nov/Dec 2016

BACH: 6 Trio Sonatas; Passacaglia & Fugue
Anthony Newman, pedal hpsi, org
Soundset 1076--66 minutes

The best thing here is the Passacaglia and Fugue, played on pedal harpsichord. (...) The trio sonatas are a loss, unfortunately. Newman plays the middle movements on pedal harpsichord, but the outer movements on an unidentified organ. This choice is jarring, eccentric, and becomes too predictable. (...)

RAMEAU: Harpsichord music, all
Simone Stella
OnClassical 130 [2CD] 155 minutes

Stella plays with moderate tempos, offering an interpretation that is free of eccentricities, full of delicacy and grace. The overall character is gentle geniality, not aggression. (...) There are production slip-ups, though. The sound is the biggest letdown. (...)

Journey around Europe
Richard Lester, hpsi, fp, org; Elizabeth Lester, rec
Nimbus 5939--80 minutes

Lester plays a general-interest recital, mostly of well-known pieces that are available in dozens of other recordings. The program is mostly sonatas, toccatas, and variations. (...) He has good flair for playing the music of Scarlatti, Seixas, Soler, and Mozart. Some of the other performances sound less imaginative, especially in Bach's D-major Toccata (BWV 912) and Handel's "Harmonious Blacksmith" variations. (...)

FROBERGER: Keyboard Pieces vol 7: Capriccios
Bob van Asperen, org
Aeolus 10701 [SACD] 79 minutes
Vol 8: Toccatas
Bob van Asperen, hpsi, org
Aeolus 10134--77 minutes

I don't have much to add to my enthusiastic review from a few months ago (J/A 2016), where I greeted the reissued volumes 3 and 4 of this terrific series. The new volumes 7 and 8 complete it. (...) In volume 8, van Asperen plays most of the toccatas on harpsichord, but three on organ, and he fits Froberger's two vocal pieces (not toccatas) into the sequence for interesting variety. (...) Turning to volume 7, the music is more arcane. Froberger's capriccios are tougher compositions to listen to than his toccatas. (...) As in the earlier volumes, the scholarship of this Froberger Edition is brilliant and the presentation is deluxe in every way. Bravo to van Asperen and Aeolus for completing this important set over the many years it took!

COUPERIN, L: Harpsichord Pieces 3
Bob van Asperen
Aeolus 10124 [SACD] 71 minutes

This is part of van Asperen's complete survey of the music by Louis Couperin (c1626-1661), who was part of a large family of expert musicians. (...) This volume 3 is from 2007, released 2013. The two remaining volumes of the five-disc series are yet to come, with ETA unknown. (...)

CLEMENTI: Piano Sonatas 4
Susan Alexander-Max, fp
Naxos 572664 --78 minutes

History and Mozart have not been kind to Muzio Clementi (1752-1832). His music is little-known, except for the ubiquitous six piano sonatinas of Opus 36 that young children study. (...) There are about 110 sonatas and sonatinas. Vladimir Horowitz and a few others have championed these for revival, but without much traction. (...) Susan Alexander-Max got 19 of them recorded, including the four here in this Naxos volume 4, but she died in January 2016 before the release of this album. (...) Alexander-Max plays all of these with great technique and drive, bringing out expressive nuances as appropriate. (...)

Pleasures of the Imagination
Sophie Yates, hpsi
Chaconne 814--75 minutes

This is a genteel program of English music by colleagues and competitors of Purcell and Handel, without involving them. The composers are Blow, Clarke, Croft, Greene, Jones, Arne, and Johann Christian Bach. (...) Everything is well-chosen for variety and to give an overview of the harpsichord in 18th-century England. Sophie Yates plays gracefully on two French-styled double harpsichords, both built and serviced by Andrew Garlick. (...)

MOZART: Harpsichord Duets
Basilio Timpanaro & Rossella Policardo
Stradivarius 37045--69 minutes

(...) These brilliant musicians play an arrangement of the Fantasy in F Minor, K 608, originally for a mechanical clock. The program also includes a set of variations in G, K 501, and three sonatas for piano duet. Performed on harpsichord, all this music is lucid and rhythmically exciting. (...) Their tempos are mostly quick, and articulations crisply precise. (...)

Jan/Feb 2017

BACH, CPE: Piano Pieces
Giovanni Togni, tangent piano
Dynamic 7762--67 minutes

This is a representative selection from CPE Bach's collection of music marketed to "connoisseurs and amateurs": four sonatas, three rondos, and a fantasia. The draw is the unusual instrument, a tangent piano, built in 1797. (...) Giovanni Togni is a phenomenally good player, on the evidence of this recording, sensitive to the surprises in the music. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations; BUXTEHUDE: La Capricciosa
Christine Schornsheim, hpsi
Capriccio 5286 [2CD] 105 minutes

Christine Schornsheim has recorded the Goldberg Variations twice: 1994 and 2016, both for Capriccio. (...) I like the older performance better, with an easy flow that does not make the music seem intellectualized. (...) The biggest difference between the two albums is the inclusion of a second composition in the new one. (...)

COUPERIN: 2-Harpsichord Pieces, vol 2
Jochewed Schwarz, Emer Buckley
Toccata 258--66 minutes

(...) Most of these pieces are recording premieres as arranged for two harpsichords. Where there are only three lines of music, both harpsichordists play the bass line in unison, giving it added power. (...) The performances are engaging and lively, sounding like friends having a good time. Schwarz and Buckley have a great sense of style. (...) Overall, this is graceful and pleasant, an important addition to the Couperin discography. (...)

COUPERIN: Chamber Pieces
Aulos Ensemble
Centaur 3487--74 minutes

(...) We get three of the Concerts here (3, 4, and 8), plus some harpsichord pieces arranged by Aulos for their diverse instrumentation. (...) The Aulos performances sound enthusiastic. (...) The addition of theorbo in the basso continuo team gives a nice crunch. (...)

DELLA CIAIA: Keyboard music, all
Mara Fanelli, hpsi; Olimpio Medori, org
Tactus 670480 [3CD] 160 minutes

Azzolino Della Ciaia (1671-1755), (...) seems an enterprising and impressive fellow. Unfortunately, his keyboard music is ugly, boring, dilettantish, and frequently absurd. (...) Imagine music that sounds like floor sweepings dumped into pickle juice and garnished with fake whipped cream. And then, it repeats. (...) Everything is well-documented in this deluxe package, and the sound and performances are excellent, for what that's worth.

FISCHER: Harpsichord Suites
Tony Milan
Brilliant 95294--79 minutes

JCF Fischer (1656-1746) (...) published a Musicalischer Parnassus of nine suites, each dedicated to one of the Muses. Four of those are here, along with three of the flower-bush suites. (...) It's music worthy of more attention and recordings, especially Suite 1 with its harmonic sophistication that reminds me of Marchand's music. (...) Millan tunes badly for two of the three he chose (Suites 5 and 8). (...) I'd recommend this disc anyway, despite these caveats on the intonation. Most of the performance still sounds good.

FORQUERAY: Harpsichord Pieces
Blandine Rannou
Alpha 322 [2CD] 158 minutes

Justin Taylor
Alpha 247--79 minutes

Antoine Forqueray's music is for viola da gamba solo with basso continuo accompaniment. (...) Blandine Rannou's is an extensive rearrangement, based only loosely on the published edition. (...) This release of Alpha 322 is a reissue of Zig Zag Territories 80301, recorded in November 2007. (...) Justin Taylor is now 25 and was the Bruges competition winner in 2015. (...) His playing is brilliant, with a tendency to go for sweet tenderness. (...) He also rearranges the music considerably (he studied with Rannou), but confines most of his elaborations to the repeats. (...) Everything he does here illuminates the music, making it sound both noble and humble. (...) This is a must-hear album.

FROBERGER: Keyboard Music
Magdalena Hasibeder, hpsi and org
Raumklang 3503 [2CD] 140 minutes

Yannick Varlet, hpsi and org
Continuo 117--78 minutes

23 Suites, Tombeau, Lamentation
Glen Wilson, hpsi
Naxos 573493 [2CD] 127 minutes

Magdalena Hasibeder's album has the title "Froberger's Travels", tracing his cosmopolitan career across Europe. She intersperses his music with that of ten other composers whose music he knew. (...) Hasibeder has an uncommonly expressive touch on the harpsichord, making these some of the best recorded performances I have heard of this repertoire. (...) Yannick Varlet offers a variety of toccatas, canzonas, suites, capriccios, ricercars, a fantasia, the tombeau for Blancrocher, and Froberger's meditation on his own future death. (...) Varlet's performances handle the music with good poise and sensitivity, not doing anything extreme. (...) Glen Wilson's set is a little bit disappointing. His playing and research are excellent, but the choice to cut most of the repeats is the deal-breaker. (...) This 2CD set would be a good low-priced introduction to Froberger's music for listeners who don't intend to collect a bigger set. (...)

GALLES: Harpsichord Sonatas
Michele Benuzzi
Brilliant 95228--79 minutes

The Catalonian composer Josep Galles (1758-1836) didn't get an entry in the New Grove dictionary, and there is only a short paragraph about him in Baker's. This CD presents 13 of his 23 extant harpsichord sonatas: 1-4, 6-9, 11, 12, and 15-17. (...) Other than Rafael Puyana's recording of a few sonatas, Benuzzi's appears to be the only recording. It fills a repertoire gap, and Benuzzi plays with a sensitive touch. (...) I recommend this recording to listeners who like to explore obscure Spanish sonatas beyond Soler's and Scarlatti's. The music is attractive. (...)

SOLER: 6 Concertos for 2 Keyboards
Philippe Leroy and Jory Vinikour, harpsichords
Delos 3491--74 minutes

There have been various recordings of Antonio Soler's six concertos on two organs, two pianos, or two harpsichords. This is the best one I have heard on harpsichords. LeRoy and Vinikour make the music sparkle with lively articulation and good humor. (...) Enthusiastically recommended.

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, sel
Ton Koopman, hpsi
Capriccio 8002--60 minutes

This is a reissue of a recording from 1986: a decent collection of greatest hits from the Fitzwilliam manuscript, but nothing special. (...) Program notes are minimal, and the sound lacks high overtones.

Mar/Apr 2017

Werner Ehrhardt, Concerto Koln; Gerald Hambitzer, hpsi
Capriccio 8007--73 minutes

This is a reissue of a 1988 recording. The original Capriccio release had these same six compositions, but in a different sequence. (...) Concerto Koln plays on period instruments. All the performances here sound alert and the ensemble has an excellent blend within its string sections. The program is a fine single-disc introduction to these four composers. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Veronique Gobet, p or CDBaby (no number)--45:15

(...) Her performance sounds earnest but not competitive. (...) She has trouble keeping track of the beat against the rhythms of dotted notes. She has other technical problems with the notes when the hands are interlocked or crossed. (...) The awkwardness here isn't Bach's fault; he did specify a two-manual harpsichord for this piece, not a single-keyboard piano, and the hands don't have to crash together. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier
Daniele Boccaccio, org
Brilliant 95157 [4CD] 266 minutes

The performance is Apollonian: once each piece starts with a given tempo and profile of articulation, it goes all the way to the end with no surprises or risks along the way. (...) The tonal quality is beautiful, and the recording is clear. (...) The organ is tuned in "Werckmeister III" temperament, from a 1691 publication. (...) Many of Boccaccio's tempos are fast, and articulations short. It's hard for me to avoid the impression that he's blasting through the music and not giving the farthest out-of-tune intervals time to speak their presence. Whether intentionally by him, or not, this recording would be a great way to gaslight people into ignoring everything that's musically and historically wrong with Werckmeister III. (...)

CHAMBONNIERES: Harpsichord Suites
Franz Silvestri, hpsi
Brilliant 95339 [2CD] 89 minutes

This low-priced set is a suitably enticing introduction to this composer, "the father of French harpsichord music". Franz Silvestri plays about a quarter of Chambonnieres's music here, assembling eight short suites by selecting four to six available pieces in each key: C, D, D minor, F, G, G minor, B-flat, and A minor. (...) The present package is quite good, and I'd be glad to hear more from Silvestri. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces 1
Mark Kroll
Centaur 3513--62 minutes

American harpsichordist Mark Kroll has started this Couperin cycle with Ordres 4, 6, and 18, which have some of the composer's most popular pieces in them. (...) This is a strong start to a promising series, with good sound and all the repeats. The instrument is by Jacques Germain, 1785, part of the terrific collection at the National Music Museum, Vermillion SD. (...) One aspect that I especially appreciate in Kroll's delivery is his strong projection of dance, playing as if to a big room with real people moving and grooving to the music. (...) I like Michael Borgstede's recording of these three Ordres better. (...) Where Kroll keeps the music striding along firmly, Borgstede finds more opportunities to finesse the phrasing gently. (...)

KAPSBERGER: Intavolatura
Stefano Maiorana, chitarrone
Fra Bernardo 1603777--64 minutes

(...) Kapsperger (c1580-1651) published six books of music for chitarrone (like a theorbo or bass lute), along with some for other plucked instruments, and vocal music. Books 2, 5, and 6 are lost. Stefano Maiorana has selected pieces from the other three books (1604, 1626, and 1640) to give a survey of the diverse styles, and admittedly appended a coda of his own to one of the pieces. (...) I find it relaxing to turn off my brain and let this spontaneous-sounding and often amorphous music wash over me. It's difficult to guess what is coming next in it, but it all sounds secure and clever. (...) Let's hope for sequels from this terrific player. There isn't much competition for this album as it fills a repertoire niche. (...)

LE ROUX: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Pieter-Jan Belder and Siebe Henstra
Brilliant 95245 [2CD] 105 minutes

Little is known about Gaspard Le Roux, the man, but he published a single book of harpsichord music in Paris, 1705. (...) There are secondary melodic lines and figured-bass symbols for improvised accompaniments. Belder and Henstra have taken full advantage of this option, playing all of the suites as duos. Their interaction is delightfully responsive as they accompany one another with further improvisation and embellishment, making the music sound like spontaneous fun. (...) Belder plays one of the suites again at the end of the program, as a solo, and includes an Allemande and Courante that they did not arrange as a duo. (...)

SOLER: 6 Concertos for 2 Keyboards
L'entretien des clavecins
Brilliant 95327--57 minutes

The duo "L'entretien des clavecins" is Agustin Alvarez and Eusebio Fernandez-Villacanas, both from Spain. (...) These French-styled harpsichords have beautiful tone, but they don't fit Soler's music as well as the Italianate ones played by LeRoy and Vinikour (Delos, J/F 2017). It's like the difference between singing mostly with long-sustained vowels, vs the percussive effects of strongly-articulated consonants. Alvarez and Fernandez make the music sound noble and even sometimes somber, while LeRoy and Vinikour make it more playful and include all the repeats. (...)

Parthenia (1613): Byrd, Bull, Gibbons
Catalina Vicens, hpsi; Rebeka Ruso, treble and bass viol
Carpe Diem 16298--65 minutes

Alina Rotaru, hpsi
Sono Luminus 92208--53 minutes

This book is important to music history as England's first publication of harpsichord music. (...) Vicens plays six different harpsichords: three antiques, and three modern reproductions. Rotaru plays on a bright-toned single-manual harpsichord by Thomas and Barbara Wolf. (...) Characterizing the bigger picture: Vicens finds a courtly world of the gentle lute, much of the time, while Rotaru plays as if for a public wedding in a big space. Both these complementary approaches sound convincing. I'm glad to have these two contrasting recordings, both very well played and bringing out such different views of the music.

Variazioni: Italian harpsichords from the Smithsonian collection
Webb Wiggins
Smithsonian Friends of Music 10-209--65 minutes

This album is a showcase for two Italian harpsichords in the Smithsonian Institute: one by Giusti (Rome, 1693) and the other by DeQuoco (Florence, 1694). (...) Wiggins's performance is superlative, filled with subtleties of timing and variety of mood. He is responsive to the surprising twists and turns in the music, highlighting details. He also conveys an effective dramatic shape for each piece. (...)

May/Jun 2017

BACH: Toccatas, Fantasias, Preludes, Fugues, Pastorale
Peter Watchorn, pedal hpsi
Musica Omnia 512 [3CD] 165 minutes

(...) I have heard most of Ahlgrimm's recorded Bach, and all of Watchorn's, over many years. His interpretations are obviously inspired by his study with her in Vienna, and by her recordings. There is intense concentration, plus a grand rhetorical freedom to make the phrases speak in long lines. The tempos give the listener time to get everything. (...) Interspersed among the toccatas, Watchorn plays Bach's big preludes and fugues and fantasias, including the Chromatic Fantasy (S 903). He improvised the elaborations of chordal sections at the recording sessions, so it sounds fresh and immediate. (...)

GEMINIANI: Keyboard Music
Francesco Baroni, hpsi and org
Stradivarius 37051 [2CD] 107 minutes

This is a compilation of Francesco Geminiani's odds and ends, his "Second Collection" pulled together into a 1762 book and printed by a "Mrs Johnson" in London--the widow of John Johnson, who had printed many of Geminiani's earlier books. It was his last published work. (...) As far as I can find, the 1762 book of harpsichord music has not been recorded before. (...) Baroni makes the music sound appropriately lively and pleasant. His interpretation adheres to current norms of subtle time-bending for emphasis. (...) There is a 2016 paper by Rudolf Rasch sorting out Geminiani's extant sources. It is freely available from his web site. Along with that research, the present well-produced recording by Baroni is timely and important, filling a gap. I just wish it would inflame my emotions more than it does. (...)

VIVALDI: Four Seasons
with Concerto in G minor (RV 156), Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro (RV 169)
Shunske Sato, v; Concerto Koln
Berlin Classics 300829--51 minutes

with PANUFNIK, R: The Four World Seasons
Tasmin Little, v; BBC Symphony
Chandos 5175 [SACD] 63 minutes

Shunske Sato's audacious interpretation is a high-wire act full of risks. (...) There are phrasing breaks in eccentric places, extremes of tempo (fast and slow), and playing over the bridge for icy effect. In the peasant's dance part of Autumn, Sato plays far out of tune, presumably deliberately--it's effective but jarring. The oddities all make sense, at least in retrospect. (...) Tasmin Little's program has new music composed for her by Roxanna Panufnik (born 1968), daughter of Andrzej Panufnik. It is a 21-minute violin concerto with string orchestra and a Tibetan singing bowl. It has portamentos that sound far-eastern, and the solo violin spends a lot of time playing very high notes. The music is mellifluous without being tonal, and the hushed moments are enchanting. (...) In Vivaldi's concertos, Little (...) generally takes an outgoing approach, making the music lively and cheerful. (...) My favorites for "The Four Seasons" are Lamon, Chandler, and Carmignola for period instruments, and St John for modern. (...)

Ancestral Touch: Volans, Glass, Fargion, Klausmeyer, Swayne
Elaine Funaro, hpsi; others
Alienor 1208--47 minutes

This album is from 2001, more recently distributed with the title "Music of Africa for Harpsichord" on Arabesque. Its notes say that Funaro chose "composers inspired by Africa in some way or other--be it the dances, landscape, or animals". (...) I have the older recording of Volans's "White Man Sleeps" in this two-harpsichord arrangement, played by the composer and Robert Hill. (...) Funaro and her ensemble sound more cautious and don't build up the steam across these five dance movements. Still, it is well worth hearing, as is this whole program.

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 5
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 95308 [2CD] 124 minutes

In July/August 2016, I greeted volume 4 enthusiastically. (...) I have little to add to that assessment for this similarly welcome volume 5. It has 68 pieces by Munday, Tomkins, Tallis, Morley, Richardson, Hooper, and Anonymous. They are mostly simple and short. (...)

Orpheus Descending
Mark Edwards, hpsi
Early 7778--67 minutes

It is rare for a mixed-recital harpsichord album to provide an overwhelming emotional experience. This is one that does. Canadian harpsichordist Mark Edwards has pulled together one composition from each of eight composers, building a powerfully gripping program of extraordinary intensity. (...) The composers are Sweelinck, Reincken, Kerll, Froberger, Fischer, Pachelbel, Kuhnau, and Bach. (...) I'll leave some surprises for discovery by the reader who buys this must-hear disc. Anything can happen in a performance this great, and it does.

Jul/Aug 2017

BACH FAMILY: Harpsichord Concertos
Jean Rondeau, hpsi; Dynastie
Erato 0190295888466--76 minutes

(...) If Bach and his sons also played Zimmermann's coffee house with this tremendous zest, the patrons scarcely needed to buy caffeine. (...) That said, I also feel that something is missing. The delivery is impressive, yet one-dimensional, when the notes are fast and short and loud. There could be more finesse and grace. (...) I'd like to hear more volumes of Bach concertos from this team, especially by the sons. Those are harder to get elsewhere in performances this extraverted.

BACH: Anna Magdalena's Notebook
Cipriana Smarandescu, hpsi; Furio Zanasi, baritone
Continuo 113--71 minutes

(...) Smarandescu tries too hard to make the short pieces impressive, often playing too fast or over-ornamenting them in ways that don't make sense. (...) The last 15 minutes are for a suite in G by Christian Petzold, dated 1726. That gives important context for the two minuets that everyone has heard many times before (especially the parents of Suzuki violin or piano students). (...) Unless you must have this Petzold suite, I'd recommend putting your Magdalena money toward older recordings where the music is performed with more grace. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Beatrice Rana, p
Warner 190295880187--78 minutes

Alexander Puliaev, hpsi
Perfect Noise 1601--79 minutes

(...) Rana's touch is often delicate, but without making the music seem precious or fragile. She also lets the music dash forward robustly. Nothing sounds difficult. Her control of tempo rubato sounds natural, as a reaction to Bach's creativity. (...) She's better at this piece than Glenn Gould was at 22, and she doesn't hum. (...) This CD should be essential for anyone who cares about Bach or the piano. (...) Alexander Puliaev plays a Mietke copy by Volker Platte (2012). (...) Everything in the sound and performance is reliable perfection, with no surprises. (...) Puliaev lets Bach's music speak plainly without a personalized profile, as if it's something to be appreciated without getting too close to it.

BACH: Violin Sonatas, S. 1014-1019
Chiara Zanisi, v; Giulia Nuti, hpsi
Arcana 426 [2CD] 95 minutes

The violin is too loud and has a rough tone. (...) The tempos are mostly fast, and don't bend much. Zanisi and Nuti have excellent dexterity and intonation, but the music needs more than that. Their interpretation sounds impersonal and boring. (...)

DOWLAND: Lute Pieces
Michele Carreca
Continuo 110--61 minutes

(...) Dowland was famously melancholy, but Carreca makes him sound bright and cheery. He often brings out the soprano line louder than the inner parts. His performances hold my interest well, partly because he makes things sound emphatic. The dance pieces have lively articulation, without being too fast. There is serenity where appropriate. (...) Frankly, it's hard to overdose on Dowland's music. (...) The compositions are brilliant.

FROBERGER: Harpsichord Pieces
Anne Marie Dragosits
Divox 71602--64 minutes

The parade of new Froberger albums continues, celebrating the 400th anniversary of his birth (1616) and 350th of his death (1667). This one by Anne Marie Dragosits offers a typical selection. (...) Her performance is expert, but this album hasn't grabbed me as essential. The tempo rubato is in the right places. The phrasing is fine. I don't hear much expressive intensity. (...) This harpsichord has a "short octave" layout in the bass, not fully chromatic. That makes it easier to reach some big stretches, but it also forces Dragosits to change some of the bass lines. (...)

HANDEL, et al: Handel in Ireland
Bridget Cunningham, hpsi
Signum 478--73 minutes

The programming seems promising. It's part of a series about Handel's travels. The theme is his visit to Ireland in 1741. (...) Unfortunately, the execution makes this project disappointing. Cunningham registers her harpsichord heavily. This gets tiring, and the treble unisons are distractingly sour most of the time. Her touch doesn't have much variety in the way she releases notes. The interpretations are dull. She often makes the music sound clumsy with rhythmic insecurity. (...)

HAYDN: Harpsichord Sonatas 26, 31, 32, 37, 46; Fantasia 4; Capriccio
Francesco Corti
Evidence 31--82 minutes

These sonatas are usually played on piano, but are here on harpsichord. It brings out the rhythm most prominently. Corti has sorted out the way Haydn sets up logical sequences of events, and then throws surprises at us. He has terrific comedic timing, inserting small pauses to make sure the listener pays extra attention to the next gesture. (...) It's a brilliant performance with plenty of drive and subtleties. (...)

PESCETTI: Keyboard Pieces, all
Paolo Bottini, org, hpsi
Brilliant 95438 [2CD] 142 minutes

There are 20 extant sonatas by Giovanni Battista Pescetti (1704-66), who was mostly a vocal composer and opera director. (...) On the evidence of this recording, Bottini is a fantastic organist. (...) It sounds like Antonio Soler's music, but is less memorable. The attractive performance makes this set worth hearing. The registrations are colorful, sometimes even humorous. (...)

SCARLATTI: 15 Sonatas
Johannes Maria Bogner, clavichord
Fra Bernardo 29208--73 minutes

The novelty here is the use of a clavichord, instead of a harpsichord or fortepiano. Bogner's roster of Scarlatti sonatas includes Kirkpatrick numbers 30, 32, 119, 132, 133, 141, 175, 184, 185, 193, 208, 209, 238, 239, and 513. (...) Bogner keeps it vigorous, with a cheery good humor and strong dynamic accents. (...)

Il Cembalo di Partenope
Catalina Vicens, hpsi
Carpe Diem 16312--67 minutes

This CD is spellbinding. Catalina Vicens has the uncommon ability to take the listener to a different world within seconds. She has a way of making her performances sound both casual and intentional at the same time. This is difficult to describe. It sounds free, yet definitely going somewhere important. The instrument is from Naples, c1525, and is the world's oldest playable harpsichord. (...) Highest recommendation. (...)

A Madame: Divertissement pour Adelaide
Julien Chauvin, v; Olivier Baumont, hpsi
Aparte 138--53 minutes

The program celebrates princess Adelaide, daughter of Louis XV. Everything recorded here is a premiere. The only familiar composers are Rameau and Balbastre. The others are Simon Simon, Antoine Dauvergne, Jean-Pierre Guignon, and Jean-Baptiste Cardonne. (...) This is Adelaide's violin. (...) This violin has an uncommonly sweet and full tone after its restoration in 2010. The harpsichord is a Blanchet from 1746, restored in 2007. Chauvin and Baumont play them beautifully, doing nothing challenging or odd. It sounds as if they are simply enjoying the music and being in that room, re-creating these diversions from about 1770. (...)

The Sound of Hamburg: Schop, Weckmann, Baltzar, Telemann
Gabriele Steinfeld, v; Anke Dennert, hpsi
Genuin 17462--70 minutes

This CD is co-produced by a museum of Hamburg history, promoting tourism to this port city. The violin and harpsichord were built there. (...) The composers also worked in Hamburg for parts of their careers. (...) Steinfeld and Dennert have a violin-harpsichord ensemble named La Porta Musicale. They play with lively articulation and good taste. (...)

Sep/Oct 2017

BACH: Goldberg Variations; HU: Afterthoughts
Chih-Long Hu, p
Blue Griffin 423--76 minutes

(...) He plays Bach's variations in a lively and simple manner, as joyous entertainment. It's play. The interpretation is not overtly provocative or profound, but he just lets the music flow easily. He keeps his articulations, rhythm, and dynamics consistent within each variation. (...) It seems that Hu is simply enjoying playing music for himself, and inviting the listener to smile along with him.

BACH: Goldberg Variations, Italian Concerto, 2 Toccatas, Harpsichord Pieces
Richard Lester, hpsi
Nimbus 5946 [2CD] 153 minutes

This is volume 1 of Richard Lester's series of Bach's solo harpsichord pieces, with a two-disc set to be released each year until 2023. I respect this venture, but I won't be collecting its volumes. (...) His dexterity is fine, but this downbeat-oriented approach puts the breaths in the wrong places and ruins the syntax. (...) The instruments and Nimbus's recording sound good. I wish the performance in front of the microphones had been more compelling. This volume is dedicated to the memory of George Malcolm and Fernando Valenti, both of whom played Bach's music with more elan and better phrasing than this. (...)

MATTHESON: Harpsichord Suites (12)
Gilbert Rowland
Athene 23301 [3CD] 172 minutes

Mattheson published these 12 suites in 1714, when he was 32. (...) Rowland does well to embellish the music where it's thin, taking it far beyond the notation. There is opportunity to make it sound more French using graces and swinging the rhythm, but Rowland constrains the style to sound stolidly German. (...) The only other complete recording I've seen is by Colin Booth (not reviewed). From the samples I've heard, I like Booth's playing better. (...)

SCARLATTI: Harpsichord Sonatas 5
Pierre Hantai
Mirare 326--78 minutes

Volume 4 (S/O 2016) was so good, it impelled me to go buy the boxed reissue of volumes 1-3, available at a budget price. The new volume 5 continues this winning formula. The sonatas this time are K 28, 87, 124, 157, 205, 211, 238, 252, 253, 277, 388, 401, 474, 475, 547, and 551. (...) The sound and the booklet notes are again excellent.

George Malcolm, harpsichord
SCARLATTI: 16 Sonatas; BACH: Italian Concerto, Chromatic Fantasy
Eloquence 4820506--72 minutes

The World of George Malcolm: Pieces by Bach, Daquin, Paradies, Rameau, Couperin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Templeton, Malcolm
Eloquence 4825181--75 minutes

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 1+2; Art of Fugue
Eloquence 4825187 [2CD] 135 minutes

Music for Four Harpsichords
Eloquence 4824745--57 minutes

Harpsichord Concertos by Arne, CPE Bach, JC Bach
Eloquence 4825117--74 minutes

George Malcolm (1917-97) was an organist, choirmaster, improviser, composer, pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor. (...) This set of new releases restores to the catalogue many of his Decca recordings from the 1950s and 1960s. Many had been out of print, or not released on CD before. (...) The musicianship is overwhelming. I've had these Bach recordings on LP and CD since I was a teenager and have always found them inspiring. (...) These Eloquence issues are budget-priced. All have informative and appreciative notes about George Malcolm's career and instruments.

Marina Minkin, David Shemer, hpsi
Omnibus 5012--70 minutes

Don't judge a CD by blue crayon cover art. This delightful program with vivid sound has been my favorite item in this month's assignment. (...) The music has an attractive blend of crunchiness, humor, dissonant counterpoint, and nearly-tonal melodies. All of it is by living composers who contributed their own program notes for the booklet, except for the long-dead Sergei Prokofieff. (...) Marina Minkin and David Shemer are very well matched, passing the melodies and the rhythmic figures back and forth as if with one mind. (...)

Inspired by Bach: Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Busoni
Kenneth Hamilton
Prima Facie 61--58 minutes

Kenneth Hamilton is a Scottish pianist. All the compositions in his recital are pianistic elaborations on Bach's music or name. They are obvious choices that have been recorded many times before. I like the idea, but I haven't become enthusiastic about this release. Fans of Liszt's style might find more to enjoy here than I do. (...) Hamilton's performance [of Busoni's music] merely seems like ordinary piano-playing without much shape or mystery. (...) I have no sympathy for the two Liszt pieces here: long, chromatic, muddy, dull, and full of unresolved tritones, until they turn vulgar with banging octaves. (...)

Nov/Dec 2017

BACH: English Suites
Alessandra Artifoni, hpsi
Dynamic 7793 [2CD] 135 minutes

(...) She inserts a very long cadenza into the concerto-like opening movement of Suite 2. This is the start of the set (sequenced 2, 1, 5, 3, 4, 6). It notifies the listener that the whole performance will be filled with imaginative experiments. She plays all repeats, and her ornamentation is lavish--that's the distinguishing feature of this performance. Her right hand sometimes departs so far from the written text that it sounds like an especially creative singer. (...) Some of Artifoni's elaboration sounds to me like unnecessary graffiti, but it's fun to hear what she comes up with.

BACH: French Overture; Partita 6
Elisabeth Wright, hpsi
Centaur 3537--60 minutes

(...) She is excellent at both these pieces, playing in both the French and Italian styles on a Flemish double-manual harpsichord. (...) The performance is enjoyable and recommendable. Wright includes an essay about emotions. That's also how she plays the music, seeing herself as an actress with the task of moving the passions. (...) In the last two movements of the partita she plays Bach's controversial rhythms exactly as notated, carefully preserving the distinctions of the duple figures. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 95471--78 minutes

(...) Without bringing anything provocative into his interpretations, he dependably makes the listener comfortable and attentive. He draws attention not to himself but to the music. His imagination serves the composer. (...) Belder is now looser with the rhythms of the fastest notes, avoiding any sense of sounding mechanical or impersonal. This flexibility and freshness is the biggest improvement I hear since his second recording. That varied articulation and the rhythmic inflections make the piece seem more natural. It's like the irregularities seen in a growing plant. (...) This new recording is quickly becoming one of my favorite interpretations of the Goldberg Variations. I listed some others in reviews earlier this year, writing about this composition in almost every issue.

BACH: Violin Sonatas
Apollo Ensemble
Centaur 3527--66 minutes

I've liked this so much that I immediately bought the companion first volume (2014, not reviewed). (...) The balance is just right. The interpretive profile is simple as they let Bach's music speak for itself. They project a generally introspective mood by using moderate tempos and little ornamentation. (...) The Apollo performance makes me get up and move my body along with the music in long and gentle motions. It compels me to marvel at the compositions, not merely to listen for what the performers are doing to them. (...) This low-profile recording is for music lovers who don't need to be impressed by star names, glamour, or aggressive marketing. Seek and acquire it.

BARRIERE: Harpsichord Pieces; DE BURY: Harpsichord Suites
Luca Quintavalle
Brilliant 95428 [2CD] 160 minutes

These two obscure composers make an apt pairing for a 2CD set as full as it could be. Jean-Baptiste Barriere (1707-47) brought Francesco Geminiani's effusive Italian style into France. (...) Bernard de Bury (1720-85) was much more conservative in style, at least when he wrote his four suites. He was only 15 at the time, and obviously agog with the style of Francois Couperin. (...) I don't expect this recording to be surpassed. Luca Quintavalle is brilliant at both these radically different French styles of harpsichord music. The performance has all the bravura and grace I could hope for. The set fills an important niche in the repertoire and is budget-priced.

BYRD: Harpsichord Pieces
Colin Booth
Soundboard 217--76 minutes

(...) Within generally straightforward phrasing Booth finds ways to highlight surprising quirks in the music. His manner usually sounds brisk, but he brings a more relaxed and luxurious touch to the 'Pavana Ph. Tregian' (MB 60a). (...) Every record of Booth's that I have heard so far has been reliable for interpretations, documentation, and sound. US distribution is by Raven Recordings, 3217 Brook Rd, Richmond VA 23227; 804-355-6386.

DODGSON: Harpsichord Inventions
Ekaterina Likhina
Naxos 970262--72 minutes

This is the world premiere recording of 24 inventions by Stephen Dodgson (1924-2013). (...) This is Ekaterina Likhina's debut recording. She recently completed studies with Glen Wilson, who produced the album. On the evidence of this recording she is fantastic. She makes every rhythm and melody sound inevitable, perfectly polished, and worth paying attention to. The music itself is witty and variegated. (...)

HANDEL: Harpsichord Pieces
Paolo Zanzu
Musica Ficta 8025--73 minutes

This program has Suites 2 and 5 from the Eight Great Suites (1720), two suites from the 1733 second volume, and four other pieces. (...) Collectors will already have other complete recordings of the Eight Great Suites, or some of the other suites and pieces. It won't matter. This recording of selections is essential for anyone who likes Handel, to hear what Zanzu makes of it. His rhythmic control and large-scaled phrasing fit very well with Handel's theatrical genius. For readers who don't have much of Handel's harpsichord music, this is an ideal introduction on a single disc.

PERSICHETTI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Christopher D Lewis
Naxos 8559843--65 minutes

Lewis continues his fine Naxos series of rarely-recorded harpsichord music from the 20th Century. (...) Vincent Persichetti (1915-87) was a Philadelphia native. (...) Several other harpsichordists have recorded the individual sonatas that were dedicated to them, but to my knowledge no one has recorded all nine. (...) The music is affable and melodious without sticking closely to tonality. If you like Hindemith, you'll like this for its similar manner. (...)

SARDELLI: Harpsichord Suites
Simone Stella
Brilliant 95488--77 minutes

Federico Maria Sardelli (b1963) writes Baroque-styled music. His suites are from 1990, 2006, and 2016. (...) It was obvious that he was trying to emulate model pieces by Couperin, Rameau, and Royer even before seeing that he admits that in the program notes. (...) Stella plays well, catching the humor of the music and sometimes overdoing it. It's not boring. (...)

SIRET: Harpsichord Suites
Fernando de Luca
Urania 14030 [2CD] 118 minutes

The music of Nicolas Siret (1663-1754) is little known and seldom recorded. (...) His compositional style is thick with prescribed ornamentation in all the voices at once. This makes it remarkably difficult to play, awkward both physically and interpretively. The challenge is to make it sound graceful and relaxed, not merely overburdened with notes. (...) De Luca lets the long phrases run together, not conveying much character of dance or breathing. He uses the 4-foot stop too much and it's grossly out of tune, ruining those movements. (...) His general manner with the embellishment figures is distractingly bumpy and ungraceful, including a frequent technical failure to get the penultimate note to sound. The tempos all sound reasonable but the music doesn't come to life. (...)

Cromatica: The Art of Moving Souls
Marcin Swiatkiewicz, hpsi
CPO 555142--74 minutes

All of the pieces have the common theme of chromatic melodies, emphasizing the bizarre effects available in such music. (...) The composers are Soncino, Bull, Froberger, Merula, Anonymous, Sweelinck, Jacquet de la Guerre, Rameau, Forqueray, De Albero, Scarlatti, Bach, and Soler. (...) The performance has sensitivity and dramatic sweep. Swiatkiewicz knows how to make things exciting through his touch and carefully-controlled rhythmic shaping. (...) I've found this whole program very enjoyable in repeated listening. The premise of moving souls through chromaticism is interesting, and Swiatkiewicz achieves it. (...)

Mad Dog
Hopkinson Smith, lute
Naive 8940--64 minutes

Any new album by Hopkinson Smith (b1946) is self-recommending. (...) The music seems relaxed and casual, like improvisation, but it is also obvious that Smith has thought deeply about every detail. It all sounds so simple at this advanced level of mastery. It is a studied nonchalance. (...) The program is Elizabethan miniatures. Almost everything is by Anthony Holborne, John Johnson, or John Dowland. (...) I can't stop playing this album over and over at all times of day. It is inspiring and therapeutic.

Jan/Feb 2018

BACH, CPE: Keyboard Pieces
Alexei Lubimov, tangent piano
ECM 2112--68 minutes

The tangent piano is a lighter and earlier piano. Instead of using padded hammers, the action includes an accelerating lever that throws a strip of wood toward the string. (...) Lubimov's performance brings out the dramatic contrasts and quick-changing emotions in the music. It goes from delicate introspection to roaring. This would be great musicianship on any instrument. (...) Anyone interested in the tangent piano or CPE Bach's music will be happy with this. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Jean Muller, p
Hanssler 17059--49 minutes

(...) [T]his performance by Muller audibly copies Gould's 1981 recording. They take all the same repeats, phrase the music the same, use the same idiosyncratic articulations, and play slow, measured ornaments. (...) He plays the piano accurately, and he and the producer have delivered an attractive sound. (...) I should also mention that I fell asleep during the first four minutes on the first time through. (...) Muller does make it somewhat entertaining, but doesn't bring fresh ideas of his own. (...)

BACH: Partita 2, Italian Concerto, Chaconne, Preludes & Fugues
Simone Leitao, p
MSR 1665--57 minutes

(...) Her interpretations are conventional, nothing challenging. The tone is attractive. In repeats she usually re-balances the texture to bring out different parts, instead of adding many ornamental notes. It seems natural and spontaneous enough. (...) Leitao's delivery isn't perfect. In at least three pieces she learned the music with some misread accidentals. I noticed at least four other places where she gets going too fast, and then misses notes near the ends of phrases. (...) That said, I enjoy her exuberant and instinctive approach. It conveys a perhaps naive sense of wonder in the music. (...)

BEETHOVEN: Sonatas 14 + 23; BACH: Toccata, Chorales
Pavlos Hatzopoulos, p
Hanssler 16021--63 minutes

(...) The long program notes by the pianist cast Beethoven's and Bach's music as evangelical spiritual experiences. The performances are competent but mediocre--never noteworthy. (...) The biographical notes say that Hatzopoulos gives "lecture-concerts" explaining the music he plays. That's fine, but I'd rather hear thoughtful musicianship than apologetics.

FUX: Harpsichord Pieces
Filippo Emanuele Ravizza
Brilliant 95189 [2CD] 138 minutes

Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741) (...) had a long career as organist and composer. His music is still coming back from obscurity. The present album fills a niche as the only available set advertised as "complete music for harpsichord", but it's not really complete. (...) The interpretation is mildly disappointing. (...) I miss hearing vigorous dance rhythms within longer phrases, the "bigger picture" of the music. (...) Movements within Partitas 2 and 5 are ruined by Ravizza's use of a 4-foot stop that is badly out of tune in the treble. (...) I don't want to quarrel too much with this project; it brings us hard-to-find music. (...) Ravizza does play well, despite some blandness in articulation. (...)

HOWELLS: Lambert's Clavichord, Howells' Clavichord
Julian Perkins
Prima Facie 65 [2CD] 86 minutes

It's the world premiere recording of all of Howells's published clavichord music [played on clavichord]. (...) This charming music is notably difficult to play well, with its thicket of notated dynamics and tricky hand positions. (...) Julian Perkins plays a 1926 Dolmetsch clavichord for the first book, two of the pieces on a Goff clavichord from 1952, and the rest on a new one by Peter Bavington. (...) He makes most of it sound deceptively easy. (...) The booklet lists more than two dozen subscribers who helped to bring this important project to publication. Many thanks are due to them, and to Perkins, for this monumental album.

PACHELBEL: Harpsichord & Organ Pieces
Marton Borsanyi
Klanglogo 1519--64 minutes

This program includes suites, variations, toccatas, chorale preludes, a fugue, a chaconne, and a ricercar. (...) Borsanyi plays both instruments with a responsive technique of varied articulations. His treatment of rhythm has a subtle swing where appropriate. The music dances and sings. There is an infectious lilt to the delivery. (...) Reviewing is easy when the music and performance are this good. Buy this and be delighted.

RUST: Sonatas, Variations
Jermaine Sprosse, fp and clavichord
DHM 88985369272--76 minutes

The variations and one sonata are world premiere recordings. Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (1739-96) was a prodigy on both violin and keyboards. (...) Sprosse makes the music exciting with a long-lined sense of drive. The tender moments are intense. The performance sounds perfectly prepared, but also passionate. (...)

Art of the Harpsichord
Byron Schenkman
Byron Schenkman & Friends 171 (CD Baby)--65 minutes

This is a showcase for the spectacular collection of playable antique keyboards in the National Music Museum at Vermilion SD. Byron Schenkman plays five harpsichords, two spinets, and an octave virginal. (...) The composers for this grand tour are Cabezon, Valente, Antico, Kerll, Purcell, Strozzi, Scarlatti, Silbermann, CPE Bach, Duphly, Corrette, Mozart, Haydn, and Handel. (...) [Schenkman's] performances are fluent and robust. (...)

Bela Cycles: New Music for Harpsichord
Elaine Funaro
Alienor 1209--76 minutes

(...) The 2008 [Alienor composition] contest asked composers to be inspired by Francois Couperin's harpsichord treatise from 1716. The 2012 contest was based on Bartok's Mikrokosmos. We hear the work of 15 composers. All the pieces are between one and three minutes long. (...) All of this is music with a sense of humor and a keen feeling for harpsichord timbres. Elaine Funaro makes it bright and cheerful. I think people young and old would enjoy hearing this album.

Le Coeur & l'Oreille (Bauyn Manuscript)
Giulia Nuti, hpsi
Arcana 434--74 minutes

Giulia Nuti has chosen representative pieces from the Bauyn manuscript, a collection copied by an unknown scribe in the mid-1670s. (...) I get the sense that Nuti is listening closely to savor the harpsichord's tonal bloom--and letting her phrasing be guided by that resonance. I like the patient tenderness she brings to the dances by Chambonnieres. (...) [F]or the gorgeous instrument and performance, Giulia Nuti's work pleases the heart and the ear. (...)


Reflections of an American Harpsichordist
Unpublished Memoirs, Essays, and Lectures of Ralph Kirkpatrick
by Ralph Kirkpatrick, edited by Meredith Kirkpatrick
University of Rochester Press, 199 pages, $99.00

This collection provides a fascinating view into the personality and worldview of Ralph Kirkpatrick (1911-1984). (...) The writing reveals scrupulous musical standards and a crunchy personality. Kirkpatrick did not suffer fools or foolish practices gladly. (...) Kirkpatrick describes his touring life, his houses, the difficulties of transporting instruments, and the hurdles of fitting good scholarship into a busy life. (...) He offers many valuable insights about how to make one's way through the difficulties created by other people. (...) His remarks about music and other arts show that he thought deeply about creativity and responsibility.

Songs Without Words
Keyboard Arrangements of Vocal Music in England, 1560-1760
by Sandra Mangsen
University of Rochester Press, 263 pages, $99.00

This is an academic library book, where it's good to have the information available on a shelf but few people are going to spend months of close time with it. (...) More than half the book is about William Babell and the later arrangers who worked for publisher John Walsh in London, in the first part of the 18th century. (...) The earlier and shorter part of the book appears to be tacked on as an attempt to make it more widely marketable. Instead of dealing with merely 50 years, the book and its title advertise 150 more years of coverage before Walsh. Bangsen's survey is relatively superficial through the 16th-century virginalists and the several generations after them. (...) I concur with Bangsen's general point that keyboard arrangements of vocal music deserve more attention.

Mar/Apr 2018

BACH: Art of Fugue
Christian Kalberer, p
Thorofon 26402 [2CD] 107 minutes

Rather than using the standard final version of the piece, published by Bach's heirs soon after his death, this recording is an attempt to reconstruct an earlier version. (...) The manuscript includes some handwritten "corrections" by other 18th Century musicians (some in Bach's own family) working backward from the print. (...) Christian Kalberer (...) has tried to rebuild a pure original Bach version by removing everyone else's alterations. (...) His booklet has nearly 40 pages in English and German analyzing and explaining the composition, solemnly presenting the structure and the contrapuntal techniques. (...) Now, how is Kalberer as pianist? Unfortunately, dreadful. (...) It's slow and extremely dull. Some of the fugues take two or even three times as long as they do in the hands of other performers. (...) There is no fun, no whimsy, or any rhythmic spring to engage the body. (...) The composition is more lucid on harpsichord. (...)

BACH: French Suites 1-4
Paul Beier, archlute
Stradivarius 37082--79 minutes

The suites are for harpsichord or clavichord, but Paul Beier has adapted them to his archlute. He transposes them to new keys so the music will fit his octave of freely-resonating bass strings. He omits some of the middle contrapuntal voicing and adjusts parts of the melodies by an octave. That technique sounds effective and tasteful enough, but he gets some of the accidentals wrong. (...) His performance is patient and refined, though some of the pieces (especially the gigues) are remarkably slow and lose some coherence. His sensitivity to dynamics is excellent. (...)

BACH: Violin Sonatas
Mark Fewer, v; Hank Knox, hpsi
Leaf 216 [2CD] 90 minutes

(...) I'd be glad to hear these gentlemen play anything further in performances this good. They make me want to hear whatever else they want to do. The ensemble and intonation are perfect, the tempos are mostly normal, the balance among the parts is lucid, and there is an easy flow to the phrasing. (...) I like Mark Fewer's emphasis on Bach's irregular bowing patterns wherever there are slurs. (...)

CAVAZZONI: Complete Works
Glen Wilson, hpsi
Naxos 8572998--80 minutes

The complete extant music by Marco Antonio Cavazzoni (c1490-c1560) consists of nine contrapuntal pieces that take about 33 minutes to play. (...) Glen Wilson's program intersperses these with two similar pieces by Cavazzoni's son Girolamo and representative pieces by eight other contemporary composers. (...) The performance conveys an appropriate improvisational manner and terrific control of rhythm. (...) Wilson's musicianship and scholarship bring well-deserved attention to this arcane and obscure repertoire. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces
Mark Kroll

Volume 2: Suites 8, 17, 23
Centaur 3514--63 minutes

Volume 3: Suites 3, 11, 13
Centaur 3569--78 minutes

Mark Kroll continues his Couperin series; it will probably amount to 11 or 12 volumes. (...) Kroll's delivery is confidently fluent, but I don't find it completely satisfying. He is at his best in the fastest pieces. He brings good humor and sparkle to this music, but misses some opportunities. Much of my disappointment is in the way he runs the phrases together too urgently. It makes the melodic lines seem long and breathless. (...)

GABRIELI, G: Keyboard Pieces, all
Roberto Loreggian, hpsi and org
Brilliant 95345 [3CD] 191 minutes

(...) Most of the pieces are toccatas, ricercars, or canzonas. Some are familiar from brass-ensemble programs. Loreggian has chosen to play about half of them on organ, the other half on harpsichord. (...) The performance and instruments are outstanding. The single-manual organ from 1532 is the only surviving Venetian organ from that century. (...) The harpsichord is an anonymous Italian example from 100 years later. (...) Loreggian got his fingering style and organ registrations from close study of Girolamo Diruta's treatise (1593). The fingering informs his expressive treatment of articulation and rhythm, making the musical delivery sound more like speech. (...)

JACQUET: Harpsichord Pieces
Elisabetta Guglielmin
OnClassical 17091 [2CD] 117 minutes

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre (1665-1729) was a prodigy, recognized already before she was 10. (...) She offers harmonic and rhythmic surprises, contrapuntal sophistication, and melodic intensity. (...) This is mainstream French harpsichord repertoire at its best. I hear mostly a superficial surface in this performance by Elisabetta Guglielmin. (...) Pleasant politeness isn't good enough for this profound composer. Guglielmin has some trouble getting the dotted rhythmic figures to sound sprightly enough. Despite the trimming of some repeats, she makes the music seem longer than it is. (...) She rushes the long notes at the ends of phrases. (...)

SAMMARTINI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Susanna Piolanti
Tactus 701902--65 minutes

By the package's claim, everything here is a world premiere recording. (...) The compositional style is galant to pre-classical, with attractive melodies over relatively simple left-hand parts. This was salon music for skilled amateur keyboard players. The modulating sequences go where one expects. Nothing startling or especially memorable happens. It seems the type of unobtrusive background music to run in a restaurant or a car when nobody is really listening--"Lite Classic FM radio" fare. (...) [Piolanti's] performance comes across as more cautious and thoughtful than passionate, but that decorous approach sounds appropriate. She embellishes the music tastefully on repeats. The lively parts are lively enough without risking any mishaps. (...)

May/Jun 2018

BACH: Goldberg Variations

Kemal Cem Yilmaz, p
Audite 20.035--55 minutes

Ji-Yong Kim, p
Parlophone (Warner) 0190295719371--60 minutes

with Aria Variata & Aria with Variations S 991
Elisabetta Guglielmin, hpsi
OnClassical 17111--71 minutes

[Yilmaz's] interpretation is forthright. It sounds like he is going mostly for a solemn serenity and achieving it. (...) [It] sounds conventionally pianistic and well prepared. (...) I respect albums that are made as well as this, but I'm not excited about them.

[Ji's] is a young man's extraverted interpretation. It is in no way boring. On the repeats, and sometimes also on the first time through, Ji freely adds bursts of spontaneous-sounding notes. (...) He's out to shake up the world of classical music with capriciousness. It works. The music can stand this bold adventure. I won't spoil the fun-house by telling you where the weirdest distorting mirrors are. (...)

Guglielmin plays harpsichord. Her program gives us all three sets of Bach's harpsichord variations conveniently on a single CD. (...) The strongest performance here is the Air Varied in the Italian Manner, S 989. (...) [A] plus is the obscure set of variations, S. 991, a piece that is hard to find elsewhere. (...) The performance [of the Goldberg Variations] is bland. It's clean, but the music could sound more playful and surprising, as we get from Ji. (...) Guglielmin is a player who follows instructions very well, but who seems reluctant to take creative risks with the music. (...)

BACH: Pieces in Italian Style
Luca Oberti, hpsi
Arcana OutHere 443--71 minutes

Luca Oberti is new to me and the booklet modestly doesn't say anything about him. (...) On the evidence of this Bach album he is outstanding. (...) Oberti's double-manual harpsichord by Keith Hill is in Taskin style (ostensibly French), but it has a complex and strongly-articulated tone that makes it sound almost like an Italian instrument. (...) The whole program is adeptly done. It suitably introduces this side of Bach's character along with the gracious Mr Oberti. (...)

BACH: Violin Sonatas
Isabelle Faust, v; Kristian Bezuidenhout, hpsi
Harmonia Mundi 902256 [2CD] 88 minutes

I must admit a predisposition to like this; [Faust] is among my favorite violinists for any repertoire. (...) Faust and Bezuidenhout (...) create a rich texture where interesting things are happening all the time. They bend the music rhythmically more than I expected them to do, and it sometimes seems self-conscious, but the flexibility always makes sense in retrospect. (...) [They] probe the music thoroughly and come up with plenty of fresh ideas. (...) [Faust] plays mostly legato and sculpts lines full of long crescendos and diminuendos. It sounds expertly musical, but not necessarily Baroque. (...) The violin is sometimes too penetrating within the recorded mix, making it hard to hear the [equally] important contrapuntal lines from the harpsichord. (...)

BALBASTRE: Harpsichord Pieces
Christophe Rousset; Gilone Gaubert-Jacques, v
Aparte 163--76 minutes

The music of Claude-Benigne Balbastre (1724-99) has immediate appeal with attractive melodies and rhythmic drive. (...) This is one of the best albums I have heard from Rousset. He plays with flair and a sense of humor, on top of his usual machine-like precision. The performance sounds powerful and uninhibited, with big gestures suitable for the theater. (...)

FORQUERAY: Complete Works
Michele Deverite and Robert Kohnen, hpsi; Kaori Uemura and Ricardo Rodriguez, viola da gamba; Ryo Terakado, v
Harmonia Mundi 905286 [5CD] 296 minutes

(...) [The arrangements] will probably frustrate collectors who want more uniformity. In the five main suites, eight of the 32 pieces are played in the original version for viola da gamba and continuo team. The other 24 pieces have Deverite playing the harpsichord solo arrangements made by the composer's son and daughter-in-law. Some extra pieces from manuscripts are arranged by the performers to include a second harpsichord and omit the viol. (...) The best part here is disc 4. It gives us a dozen pieces dedicated to Forqueray by other composers, including two composers born after 1975. (...) The performances are polite and clean. I'd like to hear more gruffness and intensity. The music ought to startle us, make us weep, and be the best thing that happens in our day. Deverite and her team deliver only an expert polished surface, genteel and cautious. (...)

SCHEIDEMANN: Organ & Harpsichord Pieces
Joseph Rassam, org, hpsi, virginal
Brilliant 95427 [2CD] 131 minutes

(...) Joseph Rassam (...) meets [harpsichordist and musicologist Pieter] Dirksen at the summit. (...) He is just as good at the organ as at the harpsichord. (...) [Scheidemann's music] balances logic and surprises so it is always interesting. It is like Haydn's, Bartok's, and Oscar Peterson's in that way. Scheidemann's elaborations of melodies make sense to the ear, keeping the chorale melodies audible but cleverly glossed. The dances and improvisatory pieces are clever, as well. (...) Grab this set, plus Dirksen's.

Jul/Aug 2018

BACH: Keyboard Pieces, vol 1
Benjamin Alard, hpsi and org; Gerlinde Samann, s
Harmonia Mundi 902450 [3CD] 248 minutes

(...) This slim boxed set gives us pieces that Bach knew or composed before he turned 20 in 1705. It is the first volume in a series to record all of Bach's harpsichord and organ music as played by one keyboard musician. (...) Alard's interpretations are bland, not bold enough. He doesn't tease out the ways in which this music is surprising. (...) [The] sour out-of-tuneness argues implicitly that young Bach perhaps didn't care, or didn't know any better, or was at the mercy of other people tuning badly for his music. (...) Readers seeking this music from Bach's youngest years can do better by acquiring the two Hanssler programs played by Robert Hill on harpsichord. (...)

COUPERIN: Concerts Royaux
I Fiori Musicali
Urania 14031--56 minutes

There are four Royal Concerts, or suites. This is an unsatisfactory recording of them. (...) The flutist plays the melodies on a wooden flute and two recorders. Unfortunately, all three of her instruments are painfully out of tune with the rest of the ensemble. (...) The musicians bring a reasonable style but they don't sound imaginative beyond the notes. (...)

COUPERIN: Viol Suites; FORQUERAY: Pieces for 3 Viols
Atsushi Sakai, Marion Martineau, Isabelle Saint Yves, viols; Christophe Rousset, hpsi
Aparte 166--63 minutes

(...) The performers say in a booklet note that the venue was inspiring. Their performance certainly is. Sakai plays (...) with exquisite control of the mood and his instrument. His performance commands attention in an often overwhelming way. The accompanying team matches his intensity with a wide range of expression. (...)

COUPERIN, L: Piano Pieces
Pavel Kolesnikov
Hyperion 68224--79 minutes

Kolesnikov (...) doesn't play Louis Couperin's pieces like real dance music of the 1650s, despite the subtitle of the program ("Dances from the Bauyn Manuscript"). (...) Kolesnikov is clearly a good pianist but not a harpsichordist. (...) He makes theatrical miscalculations in choosing where to provide variety. He too often dissipates the energy by settling for quiet and slow pseudo-profundity. His haphazard attempts at poetic shading are ultimately boring. (...)

GINASTERA: Estancia; PIAZZOLLA: 4 Seasons
Mireille Podeur and Orlando Bass, hpsi; Didier Henry, baritone
Maguelone (Naxos) 358417--62 minutes

Yes, it's the complete Estancia ballet (1952) and four tangos from 1968, arranged for two harpsichords by a French duo. It's so crazy that it! (...) This music is spicy with dissonance and driving rhythms. It is hot, exciting stuff. (...) Podeur and Bass sound like they are having a great time. One will be tempted to play this outstanding recording louder than harpsichords normally sound. My teenager likes it that way.

GOLDBERG: Harpsichord Concertos
Alina Ratkowska, hpsi; Goldberg Baroque Ensemble
MD+G 9012061 [SACD] 62 minutes

Johann Gottlieb Goldberg (1727-56) (...) was a prodigiously skilled harpsichordist as a teenager. How was he as a composer in the remaining dozen years of his short life? On the evidence of these two concertos, he could follow the formulas but he had little to say. (...) These rare concertos are unlikely to be played better in future recordings. (...) This album definitely outclasses its direct competition from older recordings. (...)

HANDEL: Halle Sonatas
Nancy Ambrose King and Andrew Parker, ob; Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bn; Jonathan Rhodes Lee, hpsi
Equilibrium 145 (Albany)--57 minutes

The cheery melodic lines percolate around one another. The music is delicious. These six sonatas (...) might or might not be by Handel. (...) Whoever created them, they are terrific. (...) The musicianship is outstanding, a lively interaction among friends. After a performance this good I wanted more.

HANDEL: Harpsichord Pieces from a Bergamo Manuscript
Fernando de Luca
Urania 14032--74 minutes

(...) The pieces (...) sound mostly like empty-headed spinning of notes. The keyboard figurations are boring and directionless. (...) [The] interpretation too often sounds like little more than autopilot sight-reading as fast as possible. The music doesn't seem to mean anything. (...) Some pieces in E major and E minor are excruciating. (...) That assessment is for both the lost-cause compositions and the performance.

JACQUET: Harpsichord Pieces
Francesca Lanfranco
Brilliant 95555 [2CD] 133 minutes

(...) Francesca Lanfranco [gives] a magnificent performance. (...) Her playing conveys an uncommon ability to hold attention without ever seeming eccentric. (...) Elizabeth Farr's set is outstanding, too. (...) Aficionados will want both these recordings. (...)

MEHLDAU: After Bach
Brad Mehldau, p
Nonesuch 7559793180--69 minutes

Jazz musician Mehldau (...) plays six pieces from Bach's two volumes of The Well-Tempered Clavier. Interspersed among these, and at the beginning and end of the program, he offers his own elaborations and Bach-inspired pieces. (...) The album is self-produced. (...) A stronger producer would have challenged him to be more exacting with [problems of wrong notes and unimpressive pedaling]. His own compositions and improvisations seem too long and unfocused. (...)

Basso Ostinato: Passacaglias & Chaconnes
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 95656--78 minutes

(...) The music and musicianship are dazzling. These pieces are built upon short repeating patterns. A harmonic progression gets going, and the composer works out inventive variations to build large structures of cumulative excitement. (...) Belder plays ten grand showpieces by Picchi, Purcell, Bach, Tomkins, Marchand, Louis Couperin, Soler, Storace, Muffat, and Frescobaldi. (...) [Belder's] extraordinary performance of Frescobaldi's piece [Cento Partite] would be sufficient by itself to recommend purchase of the album. But, the rest of the program is emphatically great, too.

Sep/Oct 2018

BACH: English Suites 4-6
Montenegrin Guitar Duo
Naxos 8573676--64 minutes

(...) The duo made their own arrangement. (...) Tempos are mostly fast, but never too fast for plenty of vigorous inflection within the melodic lines. There is a convincing French-styled swing of rhythms in the allemandes and courantes. Harpsichordists and pianists could envy the level of involvement on display here. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord Pieces 2
Richard Lester
Nimbus 5948 [2CD] 155 minutes

This second release in Lester's series is disappointing mostly for the same reasons volume 1 was. His phrasing generally doesn't match the way I parse syntax in listening to or playing Bach's music. (...) His approach goes against the way Bach set words in his vocal music, and against Bach's style of slurs for string players. (...) The interpretations aren't interesting enough to make me want to wait for [annual future volumes] eagerly. (...) The program notes are OK, going into the dance forms and descriptions of their typical tempos. Unfortunately, Lester writes about those dances more compellingly than he plays them. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations

Peter Hill, p
Delphian 34200--79 minutes

with Adagio, S 968
Diego Ares, hpsi
Harmonia Mundi 902283 [2CD] 89 minutes

(...) Hill [on piano] contents himself with a surface of perfect preparation. The overall mood is placid--welcome and impressive in its own way, but monochromatic. (...) I like Hill's congenial sound, but I want more zest and some surprising irregularity beyond the deferential score-reading. (...)

[H]arpsichordist Diego Ares (...) produces a rhythmically free performance with extravagant ornamentation and some judicious "overholding" for resonance. (...) It's continually interesting. Ares conveys a strong sense of changing moods, as a traveler might experience with the sights along a journey. It's vivid and compelling. (...) For me, Ares is welcome among the best and most stimulating recent recordings on harpsichord.

BACH: Lute Suites 1+4
Michael Poll, g
Orchid 100082--41 minutes

(...) Michael Poll plays a seven-stringed guitar. (...) The performance is earnest, steady, cautious, and dull. Poll plays accurately, but conveys little in this music beyond making a calm and inoffensive surface. I hear no dance or spontaneity. (...) This recording would be pleasantly unobtrusive if heard in a restaurant when nobody is really paying attention to the music. (...)

BYRD: Harpsichord Pieces
Richard Egarr
Linn 518--63 minutes

William Byrd's harpsichord music (...) offers a wide expressive range to enterprising performers. (...) Most remarkable is [Egarr's] idiosyncratic and overwhelming performance of The Bells. He holds the notes down as long as possible, creating a grand smear that sounds convincingly like a bell tower. He conceives the piece as depicting a team of bell ringers who don't quite have it together. Some of the players in his fictitious ensemble, especially the ringer of the note D, play their rhythms irregularly as they try to ring the changes. It's chaotic and marvelous. (...)

LOEILLET: Harpsichord Suites
Jan Devlieger
Phaedra 92099--72 minutes

Jean Baptiste Loeillet (1680-1730) was born in Ghent, but spent most of his professional career in London. (...) This set of six suites (1723) was the second of his two published books for harpsichord. The style is more Italianate than French. (...) Jan Devlieger plays reliably. (...) His melodic ornamentation is elegant and sounds natural. (...) The music is attractive. I do not know of any other recordings of this complete set of suites. (...)

SCARLATTI: Sonatas 1
Federico Colli, p
Chandos 10988--67 minutes

Colli (...) uses the full colorful resources of his modern piano. He lets the characters change within each piece in ways that sound intuitive and natural. He has great control and takes interpretive risks. (...) Colli brings out the joy of the pieces, taking the listener through adventures. He outdoes both Horowitz and Pletnev in vigor and his palette of contrasts. Acquire this, and prepare to buy more of it.

VALENTE: Harpsichord Pieces
Fabio Antonio Falcone, Ensemble L'Amorosa Caccia
Brilliant 95326--74 minutes

Antonio Valente (c1520-c1580) worked as an organist and harpsichordist in Naples. From 1576, this book is some of the first music by anyone published specifically for harpsichord (plucked strings, as opposed to organ). (...) Falcone performs 14 of the pieces as solos, dividing them between harpsichord and a five-sided virginal (both built by Roberto Livi). He has arranged the other [7] pieces for recorder and continuo, or for a soprano to sing, instead of playing them as keyboard solos. (...) Falcone's colleagues are excellent, as he is himself on his two keyboards. The performances are energetic. (...)

Early Keyboard Masters
Agnes Ratko, hpsi
Klanglogo 1524--63 minutes

The front cover mentions only Cabezon, Frescobaldi, and Sweelinck, but there are also pieces by Bull and Kerll. Many of these pieces are arcane and undemonstrative, more contrapuntal than dramatic. (...) Agnes Ratko gives a relaxed performance full of agreeably curved musical gestures. Her interpretation sounds polite and deferential. Her phrasing has some lilt and it happens at the expected places. (...) The album (...) is easily recommendable to anyone seeking an hour of perfection where nothing startling happens. I would have welcomed an additional 15 minutes of Cabezon's music played this beautifully.

Fragments of Love Letters: Picchi, Merula, Frescobaldi, Storace, Rossi, Strozzi
Marianna Henriksson, hpsi
Siba 1020--58 minutes

(...) Henriksson says she has chosen these pieces because they "are like love letters. (...) This is a lover's language of longing, crying, laughing, blackmailing, losing temper, falling into exhaustion, resigning." It sounds like a convenient excuse to pick emotionally intense music, which is the way she plays. It is brilliant and exciting, while she is also good with the tender parts. (...)

Nov/Dec 2018

BACH: Clavichord Pieces
Friedrich Gulda
Berlin 0301063--60 minutes

Gulda engineered these 1978-9 recordings himself for his own study, not for release. The private tapes are from his estate. (...) Purists will dislike this. The sound is mediocre at best, a valiant production effort starting from tapes that were damaged (stretching, drop-outs, tonal distortions). (...) The interpretation is eccentrically fast. (...) Fans of this maverick pianist will surely want to hear this, as will adventurous collectors of modern Bach interpretations. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord concertos

Fabio Bonizzoni, hpsi; La Risonanza
Challenge 72773 [SACD] 63 minutes

Marcin Swiatkiewicz, hpsi; Zefira Valova and Anna Nowak-Pokrzywinska, v; Dymitr Olszewski, va; Tomasz Pokrzywinski, vc
Channel 40418--56 minutes

Davide Ferella and Dorina Frati, mandolins; Profili Barocchi
Dynamic 7821--61 minutes

(...) One of my favorite reference sets for the Bach harpsichord concertos is by Robert Woolley, playing with his colleagues of the Purcell Quartet and several guest musicians. (...) The three new albums under review all have a similar instrumentation with only one player per part, and all these string players convey strong enthusiasm and sensitive dynamic shaping. (...)

Bonizzoni's (...) album would be a fine middle-of-the-road choice for someone who wants these four concertos [1, 2, 4, 5] together, although I don't feel that it teaches me anything new beyond Woolley's and some other older recordings. (...)

Swiatkiewicz [in Concertos 1-3] is definitely worth hearing, no matter how many recordings of these pieces are already familiar. [He improvises extensively.] (...) The sound is thinner without a deep bass, but that's something I gladly trade away for musicianship this stimulating. (...)

Ferella's performance on mandolin is lively and imaginative. (...) [The concertos are 1, 4, 8, and the double concerto, S1060.] Sometimes the solo parts go an octave higher than harpsichords do, which sounds a little odd along with the omission of bass. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Suites 6+8; L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin
Joyce Lindorff
Affetto (Naxos) 1802--76 minutes

(...) Joyce Lindorff, a professor at Temple University, (...) includes the rustic Ordre 6 in B-flat major, the grander Ordre 8 in B minor, and the teaching pieces from Couperin's harpsichord textbook. (...) More than half of this program is exquisite, where Lindorff's supple phrasing and patient tempos let the music sing. (...) Unfortunately, tuning trouble mars several other pieces. (...) A few of Lindorff's readings are questionable. (...) Lindorff's interpretation and the tight miking both urge the listener to pay close attention to individual notes. Lisa Goode Crawford in Ordres 8 and 24 sublimates the notes into larger phrases, making the music sound grander. (...)

LIGETI: Harpsichord Pieces; SCARLATTI: 12 Sonatas
Justin Taylor
Alpha 399--69 minutes

The twelve sonatas by Scarlatti are mostly familiar--K. 18, 27, 32, 115, 141, 175, 208, 213, 239, 481, 492, and 519. (...) Among these are interspersed Gyorgy Ligeti's three harpsichord pieces. (...) Taylor's performances are intense. From the first few notes of each piece he sets a mood and astonishes us with it. (...) His Scarlatti is superlative, and will well reward fans of this composer, but the even bigger win here is the Ligeti. (...)

MATTHESON: Harpsichord Suites
Alessandro Simonetto
Brilliant 95588 [2CD] 150 minutes

(...) [Colin] Booth's vivid interpretation on two contrasting harpsichords remains my first choice for these pieces. (...) Simonetto's performance is lively and imaginative. He uses colorful registrations and convincing phrasing, engaging the different characters of the dances. (...) [In part of this recording, the] timbre lacks treble and it generates oddly wavering midrange resonances on some of my speaker systems. (...) Collectors with different equipment might not have any difficulties with Simonetto's sound, especially next to the compelling flair of his performance. (...)

MCLEAN: Harpsichord Sonatas; JANELLO: Concerto for Two; Toccata-Rondo
Elaine Funaro, Rebecca Pechefsky, Beverly Biggs
Alienor 1210--62 minutes

(...) All the pieces are for one, two, or three harpsichords. (...) Edwin McLean's music sounds somewhat like a neoclassical hybrid of 1980s Mannheim Steamroller and 1970s TV soundtracks, but without drums. I intend that goofy characterization as a compliment to its accessibility. (...) Mark Janello's pieces treat the harpsichords more overtly as rhythm instruments. (...) The melodies are catchy and the harmonies are more adventurous than McLean's. (...) Elaine Funaro, Rebecca Pechefsky, and Beverly Biggs play with verve and outstanding coordination. It's like a festival of harpsichordists grinning and having fun. (...)

PLATTI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Stefano Molardi, hpsi, org, clavichord
Brilliant 95518 [3CD] 237 minutes

Giovanni Benedetti Platti (1697-1763) published 12 of these sonatas in the 1740s, and the other six sonatas survive in manuscripts. (...) The music is marvelous. It isn't played or recorded often. This comprehensive recording by Stefano Molardi should help to evangelize its value for listeners and performers. (...) The pieces are all for harpsichord, but Molardi plays Sonata 4 on clavichord, and Sonatas 5, 9, 10, 12, and 13 on organ. (...) Molardi is a first-rate player on all three instruments. (...) In the booklet essay he remarks that the music is akin to a speech with the aim of moving the passions. That is certainly the way he plays. (...)

RAMEAU: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Steven Devine
Resonus 10214 [3CD] 220 minutes

Steven Devine (...) [includes] Rameau's keyboard reduction of ballet music from Les Indes Galantes. (...) He has sensitive touch and tends to use faster-than-average tempos. He keeps things interesting, but nothing strikes me as remarkably insightful beyond getting all the notes accurately and confidently. (...) The best thing here (at least for me) is the ballet score, where he faces less competition. (...)

TELEMANN: Harpsichord Overtures
Gaku Nakagawa
Naxos 8573819--64 minutes

(...) [These] are three-movement pieces in Telemann's imitation French-Italian-Polish blended style. (...) Nakagawa organizes the music into long phrases, making it clear where each idea is going, (...) as if he's (perhaps) thinking like a conductor with big gestures. (...) Throughout the set, Nakagawa conveys playfulness well, sympathetic with Telemann's markings of scherzando character. (...)

Jan/Feb 2019

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerck
Naxos 8.573921--78 minutes

Roberto Loreggian, hpsi
Dynamic 7823--59 minutes

Wolfgang Rubsam has had a distinguished career as an organist, and he made many beautiful recordings of Bach's harpsichord music on the piano. (...) Rubsam always gives his performances an intriguing rhythmic profile.(...) Rubsam has made the music more difficult for himself by choosing a single-manual instrument, against Bach's explicit requirements. (...) The performance lacks simplicity and subtlety. To be transparent, the performance would need a vigorous and clear rhythmic profile in at least one voice, preferably the bass line. Rubsam's bass lines have the notes happening before the beat. It's unsettling and frustrating. (...)

Roberto Loreggian (...) is especially sensitive and expressive with early Italian music. I wanted to like this new recording, (...) but it is a disappointing disaster. (...) He battles against a harpsichord that doesn't suit his own expectations. (...) Worse than the problems created by simulating tonal profundity, the harpsichord is excruciatingly out of tune. (...)

BACH: Lute Pieces
Yasunori Imamura
Naxos 8.573936 [2CD] 117 minutes

Imamura plays the standard aggregation of Bach's lute pieces (S. 995-1000 and 1006a)--no modern transcriptions. (...) Imamura makes it sound more like public entertainment. It is lively and exhilarating, with big gestures. This album is easy to recommend at any price. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier
Alexandra Papastefanou, p
FHR (First Hand) 65 [4CD] 264 minutes

(...) Her performance of Bach's music is fastidious. Her tempos and characters in the preludes are conventional. (...) The music comes across as serious, carefully polished, and usually gentle. (...) Her interpretation of fugues is formulaic. (...) The dynamic contrasts are used not to shape the lines melodically, but to differentiate the voices that are playing simultaneously. (...) It's like seeing a play production where one character gets a microphone and spotlight for every speech, while all the other characters are deliberately ignored or sent offstage to mumble their lines. There are no comprehensible conflicts or motivations. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces 1
Bertrand Cuiller
Harmonia Mundi [2CD] 128 minutes

Olivier Fortin
Alpha 408--70 minutes

Both of these albums are wonderful. Bertrand Cuiller plays Ordres 3, 4, 11, 19, 20, and 27. (...) He is fastidious with fingering and imaginative with characterization. His sweep is powerful. The sound and documentation are excellent. (...) Assuming that he sustains this high quality through all the ensuing volumes, Cuiller will have assembled one of the best available recordings of this music. (...)

Olivier Fortin plays the eight preludes of L'Art de Toucher le Clavecin (a primer for harpsichord students) interspersed with 17 other pieces from Couperin's four other books of harpsichord music. (...) Fortin interprets the didactic preludes more as musical lessons than technical ones. (...) [It] has a comfortable "rightness" and a gentle smile that makes this program easy to listen to. This is a terrific single CD to introduce anyone to Couperin's music.

COUPERIN, L: Harpsichord Suites
Christophe Rousset
Harmonia Mundi 902501 [2CD] 147 minutes

(...) This is some of my favorite harpsichord music. It has a remarkably wide emotional range with subtle harmonic and melodic gestures. (...) All of Couperin's most popular pieces were in Rousset's first volume, and this new album therefore represents a deeper dive into a second tier of the repertoire. (...) His performances seem objective and emotionally reserved--emphasizing preparation over passion. That said, they are energetic with clean articulations and rhythmic drive. (...)

JOHANNES OF LUBLIN: Keyboard Tablature
Corina Marti, hpsi
Brilliant 95556--74 minutes

The manuscript compiled by Johannes of Lublin is from 1540. (...) Marti sweeps her competition [Clemencic] out the door. Her expressive technique makes these pieces dance and sing. The melodic flourishes are breathtaking. (...) This is a great start through this almost-unknown music. (...)

SCARLATTI, A: Keyboard Pieces 6
Francesco Tasini, hpsi
Tactus 661916--78 minutes

(...) If you like Froberger's toccatas or Buxtehude's praeludia, you'll like Alessandro Scarlatti. (...) Tasini's performance manner often sounds maddeningly laborious because of the way he inserts tiny pauses before and after downbeats. He also slows down before big chords. His limited range of expression when rolling chords makes him sound like an organist dutifully playing harpsichord, not a harpsichordist playing his principal instrument. (...)

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 6
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 95458 [2CD] 123 minutes

This is the penultimate volume in Belder's complete recording. (...) Some pieces are simple trifles, while others are brilliantly difficult. Belder includes some of each here. (...) Every volume 1-6 has had the same excellent historical essay by Greg Holt, and then comments by Belder on individual pieces. I have nothing new to say about the terrific performances, beyond observing that Belder shapes the biggest pieces with great and flexible control of time. I urgently recommend buying this whole inspiring series. (...)

Mar/Apr 2019

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier

Book 1
Colin Booth, hpsi
Soundboard 218 [2CD] 122 minutes

Book 2
Brenda Lucas Ogdon, piano
Sterling 1830 [2CD] 156 minutes

We have here a beautifully played expert harpsichord rendition in an unfortunately unconvincing tuning scheme, and a piano performance that is weak on musical interpretation. (...)

[Colin Booth] settles on the choice of "Kirnberger 3" temperament. (...) [Long historical review here, engaging Booth's argument and the music....] (...) This temperament makes the music tense and unsettled (...) [Marpurg, a crucial source not used in Booth's explanations,] pinpointed the crux of the problem in tuning passably for Bach's music--don't ever let any of the notes get as much as a comma off their proper spots as major thirds, reckoned from either side. (...) Booth's performance is generally outstanding, a fine model of clarity and buoyancy. (...) His carefully-researched ideas about tempo and articulation cast fresh light on the music. In that grand picture, this well-made set by an expert is definitely worth hearing. (...)

The piano set by Brenda Lucas Ogdon is, frankly, uncompetitive among available recordings of Book 2. (...) Lucas's Bach interpretation sounds naive and diffident. As the booklet's annotator points out, she has attempted to play the music with as little interpretation as possible on top of the 1970 Henle Urtext edition that she is reading from. The results are dull. (...) It sounds as if she doesn't have confidence to go beyond the printed page, and doesn't fully understand Bach's written symbols or scale structures. She can hit the notes, but has trouble finding expressive characterization, charm, or humor. (...)

Alberto Firrincieli, Mario Stefano Tonda
Tactus 710002--68 minutes

This is the world premiere recording of all these pieces. They are charming galant duets from near the end of the 18th century--think of the style of Haydn or young Beethoven. (...) This program is easy to recommend as light-hearted entertainment.

MARCELLO: Keyboard Sonatas
Chiara Minali, org; Laura Farabollini, hpsi
Brilliant 95277 [3CD] minutes

(...) The harpsichord half of this program is a disaster. Laura Farabollini has insecure rhythm and trouble conveying the architectural shapes of her pieces. (...) The instrument is excruciatingly out of tune in every way--unisons, octaves, 4-foot stop, and sloppy temperament. The organ is from 1812. It sounds good, but its conservative meantone temperament doesn't fit the music's keys or modulations. Chiara Minali's performance manner sounds clean but cautious. (...) I can't think of any reason to prefer this Brilliant set over [Roberto] Loreggian, except for the curiosity of hearing some of the sonatas played on organ, or hearing the 40 minutes of music he hasn't recorded.

RAMEAU: Keyboard Pieces

Virginia Black, piano
CRD 3536--63 minutes

With COUPERIN: 8 Preludes
Lucas Wong, piano
Centaur 3633--73 minutes

With COUPERIN: 6 Keyboard Pieces; SEIXAS: 4 Sonatas
Mariko Terashi, piano
Athene 24207--76 minutes

This is the same Virginia Black who made harpsichord records a generation ago, and she continues to teach harpsichord at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is terrific at translating all of that background expertise to make these pieces sing and dance on the piano. (...) Lucas Wong (...) loses track of the rhythm and meter, making tempo changes that are haphazard and distracting. His Couperin preludes go OK--14 minutes here. He claims that this is the only available recording of them on piano. (...) Mariko Terashi gives us 24 minutes of Seixas, 30 of Rameau, and 22 of Couperin. Her performance generally doesn't convey much gracefulness. It's accurate but doesn't hold attention strongly. (...)

SCARLATTI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Jean Rondeau
Erato 0190295633684--81 minutes

(...) Jean Rondeau's selection of 15 sonatas is mostly familiar pieces that many other musicians have recorded. The Kirkpatrick numbers are 6, 30, 69, 119, 132, 141, 162, 175, 180, 199, 208, 213, 216, 460, and 481 (played in a different sequence). (...) The performance is swaggeringly confident, but I find it unsatisfying. (...) As the program proceeds, the interpretation gets increasingly eccentric, toward the point of being frustrating and infuriating (...) He sacrifices the mood to make us listen to him, not the composer. (...) Rondeau's self-serving iconoclastic showmanship is not what I want.

SCHEIDEMANN: Harpsichord Pieces; SCHEIDT: Harpsichord Pieces
Yoann Moulin
Ricercar 394--56 minutes

This inspiring program is worthy to join the outstanding Scheidemann recordings by Rassam and Dirksen (...) Moulin captures the different expressive characters of the pieces well, playing with fluency and imagination. He understands the rare art of guiding a listener subtly through several layers of a composition simultaneously. (...)

VERACINI: Violin Sonatas, op 1:1+6; op 2:8+12
Enrico Gatti; Guido Morini, hpsi; Alain Gervreau, vc
Arcana 456--60 minutes

(...) [This is the second reissue of this 1996 recording.] The performance is brilliant, the music attractive, and there isn't much competition in these pieces (...) The most-recorded sonata is the first one. Gatti makes it lively and extraverted. (...)

May/Jun 2019

COUPERIN: Les Nations
Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques
Aparte 197 [2CD] 109 minutes

This is a set of four extended trio sonatas published in 1726 (...) The sonatas each have seven to ten movements, mostly with the same dances found in suites. (...) The performances are graceful and well-rehearsed, with deferential teamwork from Rousset's ten musicians. The music flows easily and the interpretation sounds objective. I'd like to hear more spontaneity and individual personality, more roughness to the blend, but the overall refined musicianship is easy to listen to and enjoy. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord and Ensemble Pieces
Christophe Rousset, Les Talens Lyriques
Aparte 193 [2CD] 131 minutes

The package is called Couperin & Moi. (...) There are 18 minutes of new recordings by Les Talens Lyriques. (...) There are 44 minutes of harpsichord solos drawn from Rousset's complete Harmonia Mundi set of 25 years ago (...) Nine minutes of music duplicate a few movements from the new recording of Les Nations. (...) The remaining 60 minutes are older ensemble recordings from Aparte, or licensed from Decca or Warner. (...) [The] musical standard as heard here is consistently high. I like Rousset's ensemble direction and continuo improvisations more than his older solo harpsichord performances. (...)

PACHELBEL: Keyboard music, all
Simone Stella, hpsi & org
Brilliant 95623 [13CD] 15 hours and 2 minutes

(...) The box includes four hours and 17 minutes of harpsichord music; ten hours and 45 minutes of organ. Simone Stella is a reliable and imaginative performer, playing very well on both instruments. (...) For overall value and inspiringly high quality, this box is extraordinary. (...) Stella keeps [the more than 100 fugues] lively and interesting with his articulation and registrations. (...) Stella plays all 19 [attributed] suites (...) Stella's tempos tend to be lively, and his articulations vigorous. It gives the impression of a young hotshot's music, out to impress (Pachelbel died at only 52). The organ registrations are beautifully varied. Stella makes conservative choices. (...) [He] conveys a creative spirit in making his performances effective. (...)

Piano music c1300 - c2000
Jeremy Denk
Nonesuch 563316 [2CD] 101 minutes

(...) [Denk] says the program is "a mixture of personal affection, historical awareness, and the desire to provide a compelling narrative." (...) Too much of the first half hour of Denk's program sounds timid and deferential before Great Art. (...) [The] second disc of the program (everything after Bach) comes across as an impressive sampler, showing that this versatile musician can play all this later repertoire uncommonly well. (...)

Jul/Aug 2019

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Anne-Catherine Bucher, hpsi
Naxos 8551405 -- 80 minutes

(...) She recorded this performance on a Dulcken-style harpsichord in May 2016. (...) She plays straightforwardly (steady tempos, few improvised embellishments) and observes all the repeats. Most of her tempos are fast, similar to those in Glenn Gould's notorious 1955 recording on piano. (...) Bucher is content to give us the big architectural features of the edifice.

BACH: Violin and Cello Pieces, arr.
Roberto Loreggian, hpsi
Brilliant 95757 [3CD] 180 minutes

(...) It's emphatically no replacement for the original recordings by Gustav Leonhardt. (...) Leonhardt played with strong rhythmic vitality. He conveyed the phrasing with varied articulations, non-simultaneous releases, and subtle tempo rubato. (...) Loreggian brings none of the subtle rhythmic swing and verve that made Leonhardt's own performances easily recognizable and cherishable. He just plows through the notes accurately as they appear on the page, missing the rhetorical gestures and the expression. (...) We must hope that someone else, perhaps Henstra or another Leonhardt student, will record this book of transcriptions with a stronger sense of Leonhardt's flair and Bach's string-instrument phrasing. (...)

BACH: Violin Concertos

with Orchestral Suite 2; Trio Sonatas; Sinfonias
Isabelle Faust & Bernhard Forck, v; Xenia Loeffler, ob; Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin
Harmonia Mundi 902335 [2CD] 144 minutes

Giuliano Carmignola & Mayumi Hirasaki, v; Concerto Koln
Archiv 4792695 -- 74 minutes

Both Carmignola and Faust include Bach's two standard violin concertos, the concerto for two violins, and two reconstructions. (...) Faust's set has twice as much music and I prefer her performance to Carmignola's. [The review lists all the other pieces.] (...) Faust's tempos are a little faster than I prefer, but not outlandish. (...) Faust's set is (...) a terrific introduction to the music, conveniently giving us many of Bach's "concertos" of various types. (...)

By contrast, Giuliano Carmignola's recording is unpleasant. He makes the music too hard-driven and one-dimensional--it's even faster than Faust, and he doesn't let the phrases breathe much. The brusqueness makes Bach seem angry. (...)

COUPERIN: Les Nations 1, 3, 4
Luigi Accardo & Enrico Bissolo, hpsi
Stradivarius 37118 -- 75 minutes

As I said for Christophe Rousset's ensemble recording (M/J 2019), Les Nations is comprised of four long sonatas, ostensibly in four different national styles. The performers work out their own instrumentation, which usually includes winds and strings. (...) Accardo & Bissolo call their duo-harpsichord ensemble "Daccapo". (...) The tuning gets painfully bad for all of sonata 4. (...) I hear too many stiff rhythms: as if Daccapo are cautious to stay exactly together. I want to hear the phrases sing with lilt and grace. Some of the dance movements have little character. (...)

BYRD: Harpsichord Pieces

Patrick Ayrton, hpsi and org
Globe 5123 -- 69 minutes

with Dowland, Locke, Lawes, Gibbons, Morley, Bull, Purcell
Frederike Chylek
Oehms 1702 -- 67 minutes

Patrick Ayrton's program (...) is an above-average Byrd keyboard album. [His] most memorable harpsichord pieces are the Walsingham variations and Sellinger's Round. He shapes these large structures well. (...) For the second half of the program he plays a very old Dutch organ (1531) in a 13th century church. (...)

Friederike Chylek (...) [includes] 11 pieces by Byrd and only a few each by the other composers to give historical context to his work. The 15 minutes of pieces by Locke, Lawes, and Purcell go especially well. (...) She plays the 16th century music (Byrd, Dowland, Gibbons, Morley, Bull) too impatiently. This is some of my favorite repertoire, but her performance doesn't help me appreciate it more deeply. She just zooms through the notes fluently. (...) The end of each strain runs into the next one without settling for rest. (...)

HAYDN: Symphonies 63, 38, 37, 9
Benjamin Spillner, Heidelberg Sinfoniker
Hanssler 18024 -- 67 minutes

(This submitted review was not edited or printed by ARG, so I include it in full here. ARG had already printed someone else's review of this disc recently, but not yet appearing in the Cumulative Index, and I hadn't seen it while writing mine. ARG's policy is not to review items more than once.)

This is volume 24 of Thomas Fey's series (1999-present) that was to include all the Haydn symphonies. Fey is unfortunately no longer able to participate, unless he is helping with some behind-the-scenes preparation. He suffered a debilitating brain injury in a fall down stairs at his house in 2014, a horrible misfortune. The Heidelberg Sinfoniker and concertmaster Benjamin Spillner have carried on gamely with well-prepared interpretations in his style. It's rather like an old album of Wagner that the Symphony of the Air (NBC Symphony) recorded without Toscanini, just to show us what they could still do without a galvanizing autocrat on the podium.

According to advertisements inside the first several volumes, they planned to record 107 symphonies--the standard 104 and more, plus some overtures. They hoped to finish the project by 2009 (bicentennial of Haydn's death), but fell far behind schedule (funding?). Fey got 60 of the symphonies recorded before his accident in 2014. Spillner stepped up with Symphony 101 that is available only in a convenient 4CD set of all 12 London symphonies, the rest of them being Fey reissues. Volume 23 has Symphonies 6, 7, and 8 led by Fey, and 35, 46, and 51 by Spillner. The present volume is 24, all Spillner: symphonies 63, 38, 37, and 9.

I have been following some German press releases that suggest this will probably be the stopping point, as the orchestra is in serious trouble of funding its concerts and recordings. So, we are (probably) left with this truncated series of 68 of the symphonies: the Paris and London sets and a haphazard selection of 50 others. The Farewell symphony (45) was handled way back in volume 2, 1999, before Spillner was a member. ARG has reviewed scarcely any of this series, and some of our staff frankly hate them (Haydn Overview, M/A 2019).

On the whole, the series has a strong personality that stems partly from Fey's mentor, Nikolaus Harnoncourt (whose own truncated series of Haydn symphonies is also terrific, in my opinion). Here is the general profile of Fey's interpretations. His instruments are in modern setup except for natural horns and trumpets. Articulations are chosen for maximum contrast, going from a syrupy legato in stepwise passages to sudden staccatos when there are leaps within the melodies. Tempos are sometimes wildly contrasting and eccentric, especially within minuet-and-trio movements (trios much slower). There is a muscular drive and punchy accentuation to fast movements. Accented chords get a strong attack, sometimes to the point of violence. The percussion section is strong, and wind solos are colorfully expressive. Slow movements have appropriate delicacy and transparency. Fey sometimes had the players add quirky embellishments he had written out, with the whole section playing together (surely an anachronism).

I have the complete sets of Fischer, Dorati, and hundreds of individual Haydn symphony recordings. Fey suits me well when I feel like hearing something risky and iconoclastic.

Mr Spillner (1978-) is 18 years younger than Fey. He leads capably from the concertmaster's chair, and makes the music sound less mannered and eccentric than the iconoclastic Fey. He is more centrist with tempos, modifies them only slightly, and he gives the music an attractively natural flow with good balances. What else could they do but carry on moderately like this? A differently radical conductor might have taken the series in a conflicting direction. These early symphonies often don't need much conducting, anyway--everyone can stay together easily by watching the concertmaster and listening to the rhythm of the almost inaudible harpsichord.

Spillner has only 25 musicians here -- the approximate size of Haydn's orchestra when he composed these pieces. I am aware that some of our staff and readers will despise the next point: it's an orchestra of modern strings playing with almost no vibrato.

These four symphonies are short, all fitting onto a single CD with room to spare. It seems a miscalculation to put together four symphonies all in the same key, C major.

Symphony 63:2 is the charming set of La Roxelane variations that Haydn also cast as a solo piano piece. I compared this 63 with Fischer and Dorati from their complete sets. Dorati's makes it thick with poorly blended strings. Spillner's flows easily with a graceful elegance. Fischer's lithe performance is between these two, with a mid-sized orchestra and prominent woodwinds. Like Spillner he has a quiet harpsichord among the string players just to help keep things together. All three of these recordings use the version of this symphony without trumpets or timpani.

The other three symphonies here are less familiar, although 38 has turned up in some fine Sturm und Drang collections (Pinnock, Solomons, Bruggen). The booklet essay suggests that Symphony 37 was one of the earliest of all, when Haydn would have been as young as 25. Symphony 9 has no finale, ending with its Menuetto.

For small-ensemble Haydn, I consider the series well worth hearing. I have found it stimulating and enjoyable, collecting all of it. I am quite sad that Fey can't finish it.

MUFFAT, Gottlieb: Harpsichord Suites 2
Naoko Akutagawa
Naxos 8573275 -- 66 minutes

Akutagawa is an outstanding young harpsichordist with expressive touch and faultless taste. (...) Akutagawa recorded two of [the six suites] in her volume 1 (S/O 2013) before the book was published, and she presents the rest of the book here. These are premiere recordings. The music is extravagant and entertaining, with plenty of humorous touches. (...)

FRESCOBALDI: Harpsichord Pieces, Book 1 (1615/1637)
Christophe Rousset
Aparte 202 -- 78 minutes

Rousset plays about half the book, choosing 14 of the most familiar pieces without explanation. We get four variation sets (Follia, Monica, Romanesca, and the notorious Cento partite sopra passacagli), some short dances, and Toccatas 1, 3, and 6-10 (the book has 12). Rousset plays an original but anonymous 16th harpsichord that was rebuilt in 1736. (...) [In contrast with Roberto Loreggian's vivid and volatile performances,] Rousset makes the same music sound like more pensive improvisation. (...)

JACOBI: Harpsichord Concerto; Italian Songs; String Quartet; Serenade and Allegro for Accordions
Andreas Skouras, hpsi; Savoy Festival Orchestra/Sandor Karolyi; Marion Grange, sop; Ambroise de Rancourt, p; Arditti Qt; Dimitri Bouclier, accordion; Geneva Accordion Union/Pierre-Andre Krummenacher
Neos 11818 -- 57 minutes

Wolfgang Jacobi (1894-1972) was born in Rugen, an island in the Baltic. (...) Outside Germany his work appears to be little-known, except to accordion players. (...) The harpsichord concerto is from 1927 and revised 20 years later. It is neoclassical, sort of like Hugo Distler's harpsichord concerto of 1935. (...) The string quartet is from 1948, and this is its first recording. The two Italian songs were composed in 1954. (...) The Serenade and Allegro (1958) is a concertino for a soloist and orchestra playing accordions, plus percussion. (...) The performances all sound confident and presumably accurate. All of this is very impressive for a provincial Alpine festival celebrating a scarcely-known composer.

Inspirations: French Harpsichord Arrangements
D'Anglebert, Forqueray, Rameau
Melisande McNabney
Atma 2780 -- 67 minutes

Melisande McNabney (...) assembles a six-movement suite in C major from d'Anglebert's manuscripts, plus 16 minutes of individual pieces by him in other keys. Most of the pieces in the C major suite are d'Anglebert's arrangements from contemporary composers for lute. (...) McNabney plays six of the seven movements of Forqueray's Suite 5, but omits La Montigni without explanation. (...) Her harpsichord technique and taste are flawless. (...) [This] beautiful program from a young expert is interesting and well worth having.

FROBERGER: Clavichord Pieces
Johannes Bogner
Fra Bernardo 1703213 -- 54 minutes

This intimate program spotlights the moody expressivity of this phenomenally personal keyboard composer, Froberger--sort of a 17th century Chopin. (...) I liked Bogner's Scarlatti album similarly (J/A 2017). He is a sensitive player, great at conveying quiet intensity and concentration.

Some like it plucked
Patrick Ayrton, hpsi; Thomas Gould, v; Les Inventions
Globe 5272 -- 68 minutes

Ayrton is a French harpsichordist in his late 50s. Some of the pieces here are his light-hearted concert encores. He employs violinist Thomas Gould on three selections. (...) Most of these pieces are not available in other recordings on harpsichord. (...) Ayrton plays everything with humor and great verve. With informative notes, good sound, clever programming, and alert performances, we have a winning combination. (...)

Sep/Oct 2019

ATTAINGNANT: Harpsichord Pieces
Glen Wilson
Naxos 8572999--77 minutes

[Attaingnant's] keyboard music from 1531 is a collection of dances in a series of small books: pavanes, gaillardes, branles, et al. In this wonderful performance, Glen Wilson spends 53 minutes playing most of the pieces from these books. To fill the remaining space on the disc, he has selected 24 minutes of contemporary or slightly later French music to give some historical context around Attaingnant. (...) His anonymous Italian harpsichord might not be the most authentic choice for this old French repertoire, but it sounds good. (...)

BACH: Keyboard Pieces 2
Benjamin Alard, org & claviorganum; Gerlinde Samann, s
Harmonia Mundi 902453 [4CD] 264 minutes

Alard continues his venture to record all of Bach's organ and harpsichord music in roughly chronological sequence, along with pieces Bach had studied as models. This new volume's title is "Towards the North". Bach in his early 20s improved his art by studying the work of master organists: chiefly Bohm (1661-1733), Buxtehude (c1637-1707), Pachelbel (1653-1706), Bruhns (1665-1697), and Reincken (c1643-1722). (...) Alard plays some representative music by these composers (no Bohm or Bruhns). (...) For the first two discs, Alard has chosen a Schnitger-styled French organ (built in 2001) with three manuals and interesting tonal colors. (...) [There is] questionable historicism [in] the use of a claviorganum for the next two discs. (...) [Soprano Gerlinde] Samann and the claviorganum sound beautiful in this relatively simple music for organ without pedal. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1
Steven Devine, hpsi
Resonus 10239 [2CD] 111 minutes

Chantal Stigliani, p
Calliope 1856 [2CD] 105 minutes

These two releases offer a contrast between compositional clarity (harpsichordist Steven Devine) and a disappointing blur (pianist Chantal Stigliani). Devine's is a satisfying interpretation. He finds a convincing manner for each piece, and avoids distracting the listener away from that focused character. His tempos never seem surprisingly fast or slow. He lets the music make its own way without much emphasis. (...) Stigliani on piano is less satisfactory. (...) Too much of this is like mindless piano etudes--legato, fast, and loud. (...) The interpretation makes the music sound like a series of harmonic events, not the interplay of contrapuntal melodies. (...)

BACH: Capriccio; Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue; Duets; Ricercars; Chorale Preludes
Ann-Helena Schluter, p
Hanssler 18090--67 minutes

Ann-Helena Schluter, a young pianist from Germany, offers a mostly introverted and introspective look into Bach's music. (...) Her interpretation is let down a bit by production flaws. (...) I'd still recommend purchase despite these annoyances. (...) She humbly lets us appreciate the music along with her, not commanding the attention to herself.

BACH FAMILY: Keyboard Duo Sonatas & Concertos
Raritan Players, hpsi and fortepiano
Acis 41769--63 minutes

(...) It explores the way affluent young ladies (often sisters) in salons promoted the production of music and instruments. (...) In this program we get compositions by Johann Sebastian, Wilhelm Friedemann, and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach that could have been heard in such salons with two good keyboard players. (...) The Raritan Players are harpsichordist Rebecca Cypess and whatever colleagues she needs for her performance projects. In this venture, it's fortepianist Yi-heng Yang. (...) The performance doesn't seem like a serious concert. It's compelling, like two cooperative sisters having an afternoon of fun trying out books of music at home. (...) This album could be better only if they could find a way to scent it with freshly-baked cookies. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces, Book 4
Guillermo Brachetta
Resonus 10240 [2CD] 157 minutes

Francois Couperin's fourth and final book (1730) has his Ordres 20 to 27: suites of four to eight character pieces. Guillermo Brachetta is starting his complete journey through Couperin's music at this end of the road, before working backward toward the earlier music. (...) Brachetta typically keeps the pieces moving along briskly in a cleanly-articulated and pleasant manner. I sometimes wish he would be more willing to linger on details and phrase endings, listening to the bloom of the instrument's tone. (...) Cerasi, Cuiller, and Olivier Fortin (J/F 2019) all reveal the emotional content of Couperin's music more intensely than Brachetta. They also catch more of the humor. Michael Borgstede's interpretations are more spontaneous than any of these. (...)

COUPERIN: Royal Concerts
Les Talens Lyriques, Christophe Rousset
Aparte 196--62 minutes

The Royal Concerts are four suites of five to seven movements, omitting some of the customary dances. (...) The instrumentation used here is violin, flute, oboe, viola da gamba, and harpsichord. It's like their set of Les Nations, too (M/J 2019). As I said in those reviews, "The music flows easily and the interpretation sounds objective. I'd like to hear more spontaneity and individual personality, more roughness to the blend, but the overall refined musicianship is easy to listen to and enjoy." (...)

FROBERGER: Harpsichord Suites 1
Gilbert Rowland
Athene 23204 [2CD] 120 minutes

Rowland plays 12 suites with all repeats. This album is advertised as "volume 1". Judging from the thoroughness of his previous recording projects, there are presumably three more volumes to come. It makes a favorable impression overall. When he finishes the series it should be a reliable reference set of all the suites. (...) The unspecified mild temperament sounds like Vallotti's. It fits the geniality of Rowland's interpretation. I am more pleased with this set than I was with his Mattheson (S/O 2017) or Handel. I still enjoy Bob van Asperen (M/A 2007 and S/O 2016) more than Rowland in all of these suites.

SCHALE: 5 Harpsichord Sonatas
Luigi Chiarizia
Urania 14048--47 minutes

This mercifully short program gives us previously unrecorded pieces by Christian Friedrich Schale (1713-1800). (...) These sonatas are like what early Haydn might have sounded like if he hadn't had any memorable ideas or humorous quirks. Chiarizia makes a decent effort at playing them, but his unimaginative delivery doesn't ameliorate the square phrasing or predictably dull sequences. (...) The harpsichord is disastrously out of tune in its unisons and its four-foot stop, sabotaging half the pieces. Ugh.

SCHULZ: Sonata; 6 Piano Pieces; WEYSE: Theme & Variations
Christine Schornsheim, fortepiano
Capriccio 5363--73 minutes

The pianistic style of Johann Abraham Peter Schulz (1747-1800) and Christoph Ernst Friedrich Weyse (also 1747-1800) sounds like a cross between CPE Bach's and Dussek's. It is impressively public music to make grand effects, showing off a keyboardist's dexterity and flair. Christine Schornsheim is terrific at this virtuosic manner. (...) The production has a few glitches. (...) The most dismaying problem is in the last of Schulz's pieces, [where] (...) there are suddenly two seconds of digital blitzing noise superimposed on the recording. (...) The music and Schornsheim's heroic performance are impressive--just watch out for the blemishes that aren't her fault. More than an hour of this program goes very, very well. (...)

Il Cembalo Transalpino
Sophie Yates, hpsi
Chandos 819--65 minutes

The album's [theme] (...) is the cross-fertilization of English and Italian musical ideas over the next 190 years. To illustrate that, Sophie Yates has made an apt selection of music from the collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum of Cambridge. (...) The single-manual Italian harpsichord is also part of the Fitzwilliam museum's collection. It is about 400 years old. (...) [Yates] has a convincing declamatory manner in a piece by Striggio, but the other performances here are less free. Groups of four or eight notes often seem too strict and ordinary. The bigger compositional structures aren't always coherent, another challenge in this repertoire. There could have been more brinkmanship and passion, with a stronger sense of improvisation beyond cautious preparation. (...)

Nov/Dec 2019

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Carole Cerasi
Metronome 1100 [10CD] 10 hours 35 minutes

(...) I have been studying this neatly boxed CD set for seven months, and urging expert colleagues to do the same. It shows why we need music in our lives--for emotion and dignity. A performance this noble and perfect shows why expertise and thorough preparation are important, even though prominent people in our decaying culture assert that expertise is to be disdained. This music shows why it still matters to get things right. (...) There is no eccentricity in the interpretation. Cerasi is alert, reliable, sensitive, brilliant, perfectly practiced, graceful, and humble before this core music of the repertoire. (...) It's some of the best harpsichord playing I have heard all year. The impression Cerasi projects is not "wow, this is an impressive player!", but "wow, this music is so well written!" (...)

BACH: French Overture S 831

with English Suite 6; Sarabande S 990
Nils Anders Mortensen, p
Lawo 1174--72 minutes

with French Suite 1; 9 Sinfonias
Diana Boyle, p
Divine Art 25190 [2CD] 85 minutes

(...) Nils Anders Mortensen is a Norwegian pianist born in 1971. (...) He plays Bach on the piano better than the superstars (Richter, Kempff, Argerich, Hewitt, Gould, Tureck, et al). It's up there with Beatrice Rana's Goldbergs (J/A 2017). He adds exquisite melodic embellishment to all three pieces--some of the best I have heard on any instrument. He also brings in improvised left-hand lines and chords in ways that make the music more beautiful, not as distractions. (...)

Diana Boyle (...) uses absurdly slow and unsteady tempos. (...) She adds incoherent ritardandos that make her slow tempos drag further. Her touch is a boring constant staccato. Dynamics are terrible: the notes are either almost inaudible, or pounded in isolation far too loudly and roughly. Her rhythms lack energetic springiness. (...) [She also fails in] basic counting of the meter. (...)

BACH, CPE: Keyboard Pieces 38
Miklos Spanyi, hpsi
BIS 2337--79 minutes

The program collects some of the earliest pieces by this composer, when he was a teenager. Most are trifles. (...) [Spanyi plays a] modern Ammer harpsichord built in 1948. (...) This mediocre instrument and the performance make these charming little pieces heavier-footed than they ought to be, removing their sparkle and humor. Spanyi is a much more sensitive clavichordist and tangent pianist than harpsichordist. (...) He sounds dutiful and bored when reading through the easy passages, as if his fingers are moving on autopilot--unwilling to invest the music with more levels of interest. (...) Within this generally good series now into its third decade, the present volume is a surprising disappointment. (...)

HAYDN: The Seven Last Words of Christ
Nicolas Stavy, p
BIS 2429 [SACD] 63 minutes

This was recorded in 2006 and released by Mandala as a conventional CD. (...) Nicolas Stavy provides good characterization of the music's sentiments, and he has a delicate piano touch that makes the quiet sections lovely. His rendition of the concluding earthquake movement is underwhelming, but that's really the fault of the Artaria arrangement having a thin texture (like the string quartet version). (...) The F minor variations (15 minutes) are similarly refined and beautiful in Stavy's performance. (...) Between these variations and the main attraction of Haydn's devotional adagios, this is a beautiful piano record.

SAMMARTINI: 18 Harpsichord Sonatas
Simonetta Heger
Dynamic 7841--63 minutes

The composer is Giovanni Battista Sammartini (1700-1775), not to be confused with his brother Giuseppe (1695-1750). (...) These sonatas are short, like Domenico Scarlatti's, and almost all in major keys. They have typical keyboard techniques: pulsing bass notes, syncopated melodies, arpeggios, and some hand crossing. The ideas are developed well, not merely falling into lazy sequences of repetition. While not ideal, Heger's performance is easy to listen to. (...) Because this is the only recording of these sonatas, so far, there is scope for further exploration. Perhaps another harpsichordist or pianist could emphasize the grander effects in these pieces, coming from a composer who specialized in the big stage. Until then, this CD is recommendable anyway for the interesting repertoire.

SCARLATTI: 11 Mandolin Sonatas
Pizzicar Galante
Outhere 115--60 minutes

The core sonatas here are K 77, 81, 88, 89, 90, and 91--all in more than one movement each, and for unspecified instrumentation in the source. (...) Pizzicar Galante from Parma gives us those six sonatas plus 13 minutes of additional pieces: their new arrangements of K 35, 61, 73, 78, and 85. (...) Ensemble personnel are Anna Schivazappa, mandolins; Ronald Martin Alonso, viola da gamba; Daniel de Morais, theorbo and guitar; and Fabio Antonio Falcone, harpsichord. (...)

SPERGHER: Organ and Harpsichord Pieces
Chiara Minali
Brilliant 95834 [3CD] 211 minutes

Ignazio Spergher (1734-1808) lived in Treviso (near Venice and Padua) his whole life. (...) Almost everything here is claimed to be the world premiere recording. We get 79 minutes of harpsichord pieces and 142 of organ. This doesn't seem like a major discovery, but the pieces are pleasant and logical: like Soler's sonatas. (...) Chiara Minali plays a two-manual organ built in 1903. She changes her registrations as often as possible, almost like a colorful orchestration. (...) She sounds less comfortable when playing on her single-manual harpsichord, a 2008 copy of the 1681 Giusti. She doesn't bring enough range into her timing or releases, except in the slowest pieces. (...) There is nothing horribly wrong with her harpsichord performance, but I'd like to hear what a more resourceful player would find deeper in these sonatas.

Ars Longa: Old and new music for theorbo
Elizabeth Kenny
Linn 603 -- 76 minutes

(...) There are seven pieces from a 1623 book by Alessandro Piccinini, three from 1640 by Kapsberger, plus a suite and two other pieces by Robert de Visee, as found in a 1699 manuscript. The new pieces were written for Kenny by Nico Muhly, Benjamin Oliver, and Sir James MacMillan. (...) Oliver's piece (...) makes the theorbo sound like an electric guitar. It's like a soliloquy full of emotional outbursts. Muhly's (...) is a lullaby that gets into freely dissonant chords, agitated runs, and harmonics. (...) [The early pieces are fine, but] the urgent reason to acquire Kenny's program is the 21st-century compositions.

Jan/Feb 2020

BACH: Art of Fugue; 4 Duetti; Ricercars
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi & clavichord; Gerard de Wit, hpsi
Brilliant 96035 [2CD] 118 minutes

This superlative performance on harpsichord is one of the most lucid I have heard in 40 years of studying the piece. (...) [Belder plays with] a gently unequal lilt that sounds convincing to me. Most other harpsichordists, pianists, organists, and ensembles simply play the notes equally. (...) Belder plays the two sets of mirror fugues especially well. (...) Belder takes 83 minutes for the Art of Fugue. The remaining 35 minutes are for well-chosen fillers from similarly late in Bach's life as a contrapuntist. (...) It is good to have the Musical Offering's two ricercars included in these straightforward performances. Belder brings the same clarity and noble dignity that he brought to the Art of Fugue. (...)

BONELLI: Keyboard Pieces, all
Federico del Sordo, org, hpsi, clavichord
Brilliant 95816 -- 55 minutes

Aurelio Bonelli (c1569-after 1620) was from Bologna, working as both a composer and a painter. (...) Not knowing the composer's identity, a listener might guess that these are by one of the Gabrielis. (...) For the recording, del Sordo did almost everything himself: he made his edition, performed, engineered and produced the recordings, wrote the notes, and credited himself with the photography. He played organ for 12 pieces, harpsichord for six, and clavichord for the other two. (...) He sounds better at organ and clavichord than harpsichord, where I felt he could bring more expressive range to his timing and releases of the notes. (...) I'd like to hear more from del Sordo, perhaps playing some of Christian Erbach's organ music that is contemporary with and similar to this. (...)

KAPSBERGER: Theorbo Pieces
Fred Jacobs
Metronome 1093 -- 60 minutes

Jonas Nordberg
BIS 2417 -- 70 minutes

(...) Kapsberger aficionados need both of these albums--one can never have too much from this fine composer. (...) Nordberg's performance sounds like inspired spontaneous invention, where Jacobs's sounds like perfectly prepared and reproduced composition. If I had to keep only one of these CDs, it would be Nordberg's because of the stronger gravitas and range of character, but Jacobs is also terrific. (...)

VIVALDI: String Concertos & Sinfonias
Brilliant 95835 [4CD] 264 minutes

These are ensemble concertos, with no separate violin soloist. (...) We get 40 concertos and 11 sinfonias. This represents most of Vivaldi's catalog numbers between RV 110 and 168. (...) The group's interpretation is straightforward, and the music is clever and pleasant. The effects come naturally from the compositions without over-emphasis. Other string ensembles have recorded some of these concertos, but I haven't heard one that included them all. (...) L'Archicembalo's low-priced set is easily recommendable.

Domenico Scarlatti Alio Modo: Scarlatti, Soler, Lopez, de Albero, de Albeniz
Amaya Fernandez Pozuelo, hpsi
Stradivarius 37140 -- 67 minutes

(...)This is a master class in free interpretation of harpsichord music. Amaya Fernandez Pozuelo bends things to breaking points, and beyond, but the expressive logic of every gesture makes sense. (...) Tempos are often very slow, but there is always something to discover in every moment. Her Scarlatti sonatas are Kirkpatrick numbers 213, 1, 201, 98, 184, and 115. The other pieces by Felix Lopez, Sebastian de Albero, Mateo de Albeniz, and Antonio Soler are less familiar. (...) [Comparisons with recordings by Diego Ares and Gustav Leonhardt....]

Toccata from Claudio Merulo to Johann Sebastian Bach
Andrea Buccarella, hpsi
Ricercar 407 -- 59 minutes

(...) This is a chronological survey of 11 toccatas by Merulo, Picchi, Michelangelo Rossi, Frescobaldi (first book), Sweelinck, Froberger, Kerll, Buxtehude, Weckmann, Reincken, Bach (S 912 in D major). (...) This is Andrea Buccarella's debut recording, apparently part of his prize for winning a 2018 harpsichord competition in Bruges. (...) Buccarella's fluency with his music is inspiring, but in a strange way that fluency is also a liability. His accelerations and ritards are always carefully graded and premeditated, like riding exceptionally smooth public transit that never has a jerky start or stop. It's comfortable, but it prevents the music being as startling and intense as it could be. (...) Anyway, he is clearly a brilliant and well-prepared performer and ready for a big career. (...)

Mar/Apr 2020

BACH: Goldberg Variations
George Malcolm, hpsi
Decca Eloquence 482 8439 -- 79 minutes

Malcolm's 1961 performance is pleasant entertainment for sleepless nights--ostensibly the point of the piece. The sound in this reissue is more than adequate, as this brilliant long-gone recording returns to circulation. (...) Malcolm at age 44 was at his best. Yes, there are arguable flaws: a few finger slips, the playing style is unfashionable, this harpsichord has weird tone without much resonance, its voicing is uneven, and the slow variations could have been made more interesting. Well, so what? The musicianship is overwhelming. This is joy. (...)

BACH: Partitas
Angela Hewitt, p
Hyperion 68271 [2CD] 150 minutes

Hewitt first recorded these long and complicated suites in 1996-97 (Hyperion, not reviewed). For this remake in December 2018, she wanted to document her newer understandings of the music from the additional 20 years of performing it, and to show off the tonal effects she can get from her Fazioli piano. (...) [Earlier, her] interpretation was simpler and more intimate. In the new recording, she plays a loud and too-consistent staccato bass, not giving much harmonic support to the right-hand voices but only punctuating the rhythm. (...) Listening to Hewitt I don't feel emotions arising from the music. I hear careful preparation to keep anything from ever going wrong. I yearn for more irregularity and spontaneity. (...) Hewitt's fans will probably be happy with either set, or want both to hear the ways her ideas have changed over the years.

BACH: Italian Concerto; Chorale Preludes; Transcriptions; SCARLATTI: 5 Sonatas
Polina Osetinskaya, p
Melodiya 10 02602 -- 74 minutes

(...) Too much of this program is ponderous, rhythmically stiff, and bangy. She uses a more delicate touch for the last few pieces, but her interpretation there (of the "devotional shawl over Bach" type) is cautious and boring. (...) Osetinskaya's Scarlatti sonatas are K 98, 377, 87, 32, and 141 interspersed among the Bach pieces. (...) The pianist says this album is to be heard as if it were a single piece, as "my protest against the present time, when you have no time for anything at all; this slow pace is important to talk to yourself." Perhaps the project has been therapeutic for her, and will move some other listeners in that way. (...)

COUPERIN: Les Nations; Suites of Viol Pieces
Jacobean Ensemble; Desmond Dupre & Dennis Nesbitt, viola da gamba; Thurston Dart, hpsi
Decca Eloquence 482 8544 [2CD] 137 minutes

(...) Here is a classic recording from 60 years ago, played (...) by strings alone. (...) This recording is a time capsule regarding historical performance practices in the 20th century. The often-continuous vibrato from Marriner and Pini seems out of place now, but pleasant enough. Dupre and Nesbitt are more subtle and sparing with theirs. (...) Dart's harpsichord realizations of the continuo parts sound more like written-out arrangements than fresh improvisation: rhythmically square and sometimes distracting with melodic imitation. Eloquence's sound is fine for the reissue.

GERVASIO: Mandolin Sonatas
Marco Giacintucci; Walter D'Arcangelo, hpsi
Tactus 720702 -- 76 minutes

Giovanni Battista Gervasio was born around 1725 and died sometime after 1786. He played and taught mandolin in the big European cities and courts, and wrote a textbook. (...) This is like Lite Classic FM music to hear unobtrusively in the background at a gift shop, never fully grabbing the attention. It's pleasant and sweet, with good sound. (...) You can't get these nice pieces anywhere else.

SCARLATTI: Sonatas 3
Christoph Ullrich, p
Tacet 247 [3CD] 224 minutes

(...) This box labeled "Volume 3" includes 49 sonatas: K 98-146, presented in numerical sequence. [Ullrich] makes a superficially attractive sound: most often settling for his default articulations of pearly detached notes of consistent lengths and volume within the phrases. His perfect preparation comes across more as pianistic virtuosity (steady regularity) than as musical expression. He is good at poise, dignity, and evenness. Nothing ever goes "wrong" here, except for his disinclination to search the depths of the pieces. (...)

SWEELINCK: Harpsichord Pieces
Richard Egarr
Linn 589 -- 76 minutes

Egarr has chosen his favorite 11 of the approximately 50 available pieces by Sweelinck that work well on harpsichord: toccatas, fantasias, variations, and the arrangement of John Dowland's Lachrymae. (...) Egarr brings his usual interpretive virtues and quirks. He employs super-legato "overholding" to smudge the notes together for more harpsichord resonance, and he freely bends the rhythms within slowish tempos. He uses the academically proper old-style scale fingerings, but not as an end in itself. (...) Overall, his studied casualness sounds like relaxed play. (...)

TURRINI: 12 Harpsichord Sonatas
Michele Barchi
Brilliant 95522 [2CD] 122 minutes

Ferdinando Turrini was born in 1745, and lost his sight in his 20s. He continued a long and busy career in Padua and Brescia as an organist, improviser, and composer. His two sets of six keyboard sonatas here sound like Beethoven's early ones when played on harpsichord--with similar figurations and style, but from about 15 years earlier. (...) Barchi's lively and fluent performances include convincingly integrated improvisations. The set is a worthy way to hear these obscure pieces. (...)

Cembalo Avantgarde
Kristian Nyquist, hpsi
Musicaphon 55723 -- 67 minutes

This is a concert recording mostly from 2004, with compositions by Violeta Dinescu, Hans Werner Henze, Peter Heeren, John Patrick Thomas, Anders Eliasson, and Roderick de Man. One short piece by Isang Yun is from a 2015 concert. Half of the pieces are claimed to be first recordings. Nyquist's performances sound earnest and confident. (...) The generally noisy conditions yield a recording too flawed for repeated listening. It might suffice until someone makes more carefully-controlled studio recordings of these pieces. (...)

May/Jun 2020

BACH: Concertos for 2 Harpsichords; Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat (S 552)
Olivier Fortin & Emmanuel Frankenberg, hpsi; Ensemble Masques
Alpha 572 -- 60 minutes

(...) The ensemble plays in tune and together, but there is little personality to this interpretation. (...) Readers will have their own favorites, not challenged by these performances. (...) The E-flat Prelude and Fugue (S 552) is in a simple uncredited arrangement for two harpsichords. (...) The fugue is more successful than the prelude. Fortin and Frankenberg could have been more enterprising than this, perhaps improvising some continuo chords or distributing the parts antiphonally, but I don't hear it. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier

Book 2
Colin Booth, hpsi
Soundboard 219 [2CD] 148 minutes

Book 2
Dominique Merlet, p
Le Palais des Degustateurs 008 [2CD] 121 minutes

Book 1
Dominique Merlet, p
Le Palais des Degustateurs 015 [2CD] 109 minutes

As he did with Book 1 (M/A 2019), Booth produces a stimulating performance on a harpsichord he designed and built. Along with his booklet essay, his work is a master class presenting new ideas about rhythmic profiles, tempo, and ornamentation. (...) Book 2 here has the same virtues. He demonstrates a remarkably effective formula for playing Bach on the harpsichord: pick a patient and steady tempo, install a very subtle rhythmic inequality into your brain, and then let the piece play itself out easily with intuitive musicianship. (...)

With pianist Dominique Merlet, Book 2 lacks enough interpretive direction. (...) Other than choosing to use pedal, or not, Merlet doesn't find much variety within the music. His articulations and dynamics don't bring surprising details. The delivery is unsteady, too: his left hand comes along for the ride, trying to keep up, instead of leading the music firmly from the bass. (...) He brings to Book 1 a mishmash of ideas from the Carl Czerny edition (many changed notes, an extra measure in Prelude 1, added octaves, long legato phrasing) and Frederic Chopin's hand-marked copy of parts of it. (...) In both books, it sometimes sounds like a struggle just to keep the notes together accurately--probably not what a collector wants from a recording for years of enjoyment. (...)

BACH: Partitas
Robert Levin, p
Le Palais des Degustateurs 017 [3CD] 140 minutes

Levin sets a firm and reasonable dance tempo for each movement, and then plays with simple articulations and dynamics (...). Preserving the meter and harmonic progressions, he improvises very freely in the repeats, and he adds cadenzas within most of the opening movements. The improvisations don't sound like typical half-hearted pianistic graffiti, but they go much farther melodically. (...) Levin has been improvising within Bach's and later music for more than 30 years, and it shows. (...) The intelligence and freedom make this set easy to recommend, at least to hear the extensive elaborations in personalizing the music.

BACH: English Suites
Andrew Rangell, p
Steinway & Sons 30136 [2CD] 134 minutes

Rangell's program notes say he is aware of the stylistic blend of Italian, French, and German influences on Bach, but the performance doesn't bring these out enough. His interpretive profile is to convert most of this music into loud and fast piano pieces in their own style. (...) His phrasing often makes the music sound angry, not graceful. (...)

BACH: Magna Sequentia II
Sonia Rubinsky, p
Naxos 8.574027 -- 69 minutes

The so-called "Magna Sequentia" is a suite of assorted Bach pieces assembled by the performer. At the beginning, middle, and end, we get most of the movements from the French Ouverture (S 831), but the two Gavottes and the Sarabande are missing. In exchange, we get 40 minutes of dances drawn from Bach's other suites and partitas. (...) Juilliard-trained Brazilian pianist Sonia Rubinsky plays very well. (...) Her Bach style tends toward the melancholic, and her engineers gave the recording a soft-focused tone. (...)

BACH: Partita 6; RAMEAU: Suite in E Minor; SCHNITTKE: Suite in Ancient Style
Denys Proshayev, Nadia Mokhtari, p
Piano (Brilliant) 10179 -- 68 minutes

(...) [Proshayev] plays Bach's music cleanly but is too literal with note lengths and rhythms. (...) The Rameau suite has restless energy and some quiet grace, but also some mishaps along the way whenever Proshayev pushes the tempos faster than he can control. (...) Alfred Schnittke's lightweight and prim Suite in Ancient Style (...) is the best part of the program. (...)

BUXTEHUDE: Harpsichord Pieces; BACH: Pastorale
Ulla Kappel, hpsi; Janos Sebestyen, org
Danacord 852 -- 74 minutes

This 1986 recording is of some time-capsule interest. Kappel, a harpsichordist and organist in Copenhagen at the time, played a Neupert harpsichord in equal temperament. Her style seems quaint now. (...) Sebestyen's 1984 demo recording on a 1983 organ in Stuttgart gets its first publication here: short dances by Pasquini and Martini, and Bach's Pastorale (S 590). (...) His interpretation is suitably genteel. (...)

The Long 17th Century
Daniel-Ben Pienaar, p
Avie 2415 [2CD] 151 minutes

"The long 17th century" refers to the represented time span of this enterprising survey of keyboard music: from about 1570 to 1710. Most of this music hasn't been recorded on piano before. There are 36 pieces by Buxtehude, Byrd, Kuhnau, Sweelinck, Frescobaldi, Cabanilles, Correa Braga, Bull, Froberger, Kerll, d'Anglebert, and 26 other composers. (...) If we had a rating system, I would give Pienaar 10 out of 10 for repertoire here, and 7 for his interpretation: losing some points mainly because he plays so much of the music too fast to be heard clearly. (...) Recommended, anyway, for the adventure.

July/August 2020

BACH: 6 Trio Sonatas (S 525-530)
David Ponsford & David Hill, hpsi
Nimbus Alliance 6403 -- 72 minutes

(...) David Ponsford and David Hill on two similar-sounding harpsichords (...) keep the music neatly organized together, cooperating politely. (...) They add a bit of the implied harmony to the music, gently improvising something with whichever of their four hands is not occupied playing Bach's original parts. (...) There could have been a more expressive articulative range, as principal harpsichordists might have done. The synchronization could have been less perfectly cohesive, with some stimulating unpredictability. On the other hand, perhaps there is already enough of interest going on in this complicated music. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Charlotte Mattax Moersch, hpsi
Centaur 3721 -- 76 minutes

Two tiny mis-learned spots keep this recording out of the highest rank, but I'll say emphatically that it's excellent otherwise. (...) Mattax Moersch (...) carefully introduces rhythmic irregularities throughout the music, just enough to keep it perpetually interesting without sounding wrong. Her interpretation seems more cerebral and austere than passionate. We get Bach with an aristocratic dignity, like in the performances of two of her teachers: Leonhardt and van Asperen. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 1, 2, 4, 7
Francesco Corti, hpsi; Il Pomo d'Oro
Pentatone 5186837 -- 64 minutes

This lively recording was made in March 2019 in Toblach, a small town in the Italian mountains near the border of Austria. (...) Francesco Corti and "The Golden Apple" make the music vivid and fresh. Ornamentation is moderate and sounds truly extemporaneous. When he inserts small pauses to set phrases apart, or tiny improvised cadenzas, the band alertly stays with him and in perfect unison with each other. (...) Many recordings of Bach's music are now made with only one string player per part, and I concur that it's a plausible historical solution. (...) This performance employs more instruments: six violins, two violas, one cello, one bass, and a second harpsichord. (...) Get Corti's and enjoy it as a beautiful celebration of perfect expertise. Play it loud and dance around your room. (...)

BACH: Toccatas
Masaaki Suzuki, hpsi
BIS 2221 [SACD] 69 minutes

Suzuki's fluent performance is rarely surprising. He is well prepared, lacking only a sense of improvisatory whim and brinkmanship. (...) This CD might be a good safe middle-of-the-road choice for someone who wants the "don't challenge me" approach to these pieces. I prefer the stronger emotional intensity I hear from players like Peter Watchorn on a pedal harpsichord (Musica Omnia, M/J 2017), or Colin Tilney on a small Italian harpsichord (Dorian, M/J 1990). (...)

COUPERIN: 2-Harpsichord Pieces
Gian Luca Rovelli & Marco Gaggini
Brilliant 95752 [2CD] 145 minutes

(...) This new set by Rovelli and Gaggini (2CD priced as one) is equal to the interpretation of Buckley and Schwarz, and the sound is better. (...) Buckley and Schwarz gave us the four big suites of Les Nations, five individual pieces arranged from the solo books, and three excerpts from the Concerts Royaux. Rovelli and Gaggini play Les Nations (100 minutes), La Parnasse ou l'apotheose de Corelli (13 minutes), and L'apotheose de Lully (32 minutes). (...) Couperin did not specify instrumentation. He left it for ensembles to work out suitable solutions, but he also wrote there that the music could be played by two harpsichords. Each player takes one melody and one bass, noticing that the bass parts are duplicated in unison most of the time. (...) Rovelli and Gaggini take their arrangement farther than that. They sometimes bring in suitable harmonic improvisations indicated by the figured bass part, reduce more of the bass doubling, or reduce sections to be played as a solo. (...)

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces

Suites 1+9
Mark Kroll
Centaur 3719--73 minutes

Suites 6, 7, 8
Jory Vinikour
Cedille 90000 194--79 minutes

(...) Kroll plays the same 1974 Dowd harpsichord that he used to record volumes 3 and 4. Frankly, I'm still not fond of his playing. He brings an accented heaviness to right-hand notes that start a new phrase, making them too early and too long. The bigger liability is his left hand, playing a characterless bass line, along with too much unsteadiness in simple pieces. (...) The interpretation still isn't interesting or elegant enough. (...) A comparison with [Carole] Cerasi shows immediately what is missing. She always shapes her phrases with a clear sense of purpose and an expressive flexibility, like an imaginative singer who breathes well. Kroll just goes through the notes accurately.

(...) Jory Vinikour is better. (...) His style is impeccable, and his delivery has the easy-sounding grace that is essential to this music. He knows how to play for dancers. (...) Like Cerasi, he gives the music clarity of purpose while concealing all the difficulties. (...) This CD is an easy recommendation for anyone wanting these three suites together conveniently, or who might be new to Couperin's music.

Dorota Cybulska-Amsler, hpsi
Dux 1547--73 minutes

(...) This program is a convenient way to compare music from three members of the Couperin family: Francois (1668-1733), his uncle Louis (c1626-1661) whom he obviously never met, and his second cousin Armand-Louis (1727-1789) whose music he obviously never heard. (...) Dorota Cybulska-Amsler plays seven of Louis's most familiar pieces from the Bauyn manuscript (c1658). (...) The performance conveys great dignity. (...) Unfortunately, all seven of these pieces are marred by bad intonation. (...) Her delivery of Francois's Suite 8 (...) reminds me of Blandine Verlet's style from the 1970s. (...) Her sudden lingering on notes compels the listener to pay closer attention because of the surprise. (...) For [Armand-Louis's] music, Cybulska-Amsler fights against trouble with this instrument's intonation, too. (...) This makes the last 18 minutes of the program relatively disappointing, despite the interesting music and sensitive performances.

LEBEGUE: Harpsichord pieces, all
Agustin Alvarez
Brilliant 95671 [3CD] 190 minutes

ARG hasn't reviewed a harpsichord set by this composer before. It's Nicolas Lebegue (c1631-1702), whose music is similar in character to that of Louis Couperin and Chambonnieres. (...) Agustin Alvarez (...) plays decently and with a clean technique, if a bit lethargically. The interpretation would benefit from more springiness to the step in some of the dances, and more irregularity in general. (...) Apart from noticing the errors of meter and intonation, I've found it difficult to stay involved with this recording for more than half an hour at a time. Something about it is tiring, perhaps partly Alvarez's reluctance to invest the music with much distinctiveness. Karen Flint produced a better 3CD complete set (Plectra, 2014)--clearer sound, stronger documentation, and more interesting interpretation. (...) Bibiane Lapointe (Pierre Verany, 1996) played five suites from Book 1 and one from Book 2. Her performance was fine, but the meantone temperament on her instrument was distractingly inaccurate. Paola Erdas's recording (Stradivarius, 2002) is out of print, but it was re-released recently for download only. (...) I like her performance best among all of these, with Flint a close second.

RAMEAU: Suite; SCARLATTI: 5 Sonatas
Finbarr Malafronte, g
Quartz 2136--59 minutes

These are boring interpretations, especially in Scarlatti's Sonatas K 213 and 466 (slow ones) and Rameau's L'enharmonique. Here and elsewhere, guitarist Malafronte plods through the music with little regard for phrase endings. (...) Malafronte's rendition of the chicken (La poule) is humorless, just a series of polite and ordinary-sounding notes, like the way all of his Scarlatti is. The enterprising Malafronte made his own arrangements and did the engineering and production. No one helped him catch the wrong accidentals in many of the Rameau pieces, or apparently advised him that the whole CD is dull--both in the engineering and the interpretation. (...)

STEFFANI: Vocal Duets
Andreanne Brisson Paquin & Sherezade Panthaki, s; Reginald Mobley, ct; Scott Brunscheen, t; Mischa Bouvier, b; Alexa Haynes-Pilon, c; Deborah Fox, theorbo & guitar; Jory Vinikour, hpsi & cond
Musica Omnia 0802 [2CD] 89 minutes

(...) These duets were composed or collected for a princess: Sophie Charlotte (1668-1705) in Hanover. (...) Most of these duets are based on conventional themes of unrequited love, or chiding Cupid for making mistakes. (...) The songs need careful cooperation, not only because of matching the melodic bits technically, but from having two bodies express complementary thoughts and feelings of a single self-tormented protagonist. (...) Everyone makes a beautiful sound and expresses the text well, in service of this uncommon niche repertoire. The performances seem restrained for polite and dignified company in a private room, not a big public spectacle with actors actively dying onstage. (...)

Two Lutes With Grace
Plectrum Lute Duos of the Late 15th Century
Marc Lewon & Paul Kieffer, lutes & gittern; Grace Newcombe, s
Naxos 8.573854 -- 62 minutes

(...) [This is] lute music of the late 15th century. (...) These are popular songs and dances. The lower-pitched instrument plays slowish notes, covering the original tune or a lightly-elaborated version. The high instrument plays much faster ornamental notes in counterpoint, sometimes partly improvised. (...) The composers are Des Prez, Agricola, Tinctoris, Binchois, Dalza, Ghiselin, Roelkin, Bedyngham, Frye, and Van Ghizeghem, along with some unknown number of anonymous contributors. (...) As this ought to be, it's two guys getting together to jam and to have fun. (...) Soprano Grace Newcombe's (...) role here is minimal, singing the cantus firmus of five of the songs while the two lutes chatter in faster notes under her part. (...)

Organic Creatures
Organetto & Organ, c1150-2019
Catalina Vicens
Consouling Sounds (Belgium) 0139 [2CD] 129 minutes

Catalina Vicens (...) is one of the world's top experts in her pioneering revival of portable organettos, as illustrated in medieval paintings and etchings. (...) These tiny laptop instruments have scarcely two octaves of pipes. The player pumps the bellows with the left hand, and plays the keyboard with the right. (...) When played by an imaginative musician like Vicens, who is also an intense listener as she plays, the music can be overwhelming. Every note means something. (...) Vicens plays 40 pieces: ten composed or improvised by herself, five by other young composers, and the other 25 are from before 1500. (...) The modern pieces are mostly melancholy and powerful with slow sustained notes, including some pitch-bending effects and intense crescendos. The old pieces are Vicens's adaptations from vocal compositions and instrumental dances. (...) All of this is otherworldly and gripping to listen to. It's fantastic. (...)

Sept/Oct 2020

BACH: Art of Fugue
Tatyana Nikolayeva, p
FirstHand 95 -- 88 minutes

(...) This is a concert performance from Helsinki on April 26, 1993. (...) She was 68, and was to die of complications from a stroke about half a year after this concert. Her well-known 2CD set for Hyperion is much better (1992, not reviewed). This concert interpretation is basically the same, but not played as accurately: serious, monumental, heavily pedaled, and with some sudden changes of tempos to draw out the endings of individual fugues. (...) Movements 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, and one of the four canons went well enough, almost note-perfect within the haze of pedaling that generally obscured her releases of notes. All the other movements (especially the last 25 minutes of the concert) had many mishaps with finger slips, problems of rhythmic control, or improvised faking to hide memory slips. (...) All of this contributes to an unflattering memento of the pianist, who should be remembered for her best work rather than this unfortunate concert. (...)

BACH: English Suites
Paolo Zanzu, hpsi
Musica Ficta 8032 [2CD] 131 minutes

This young harpsichordist (...) makes these "English" suites sound lively, joyous, fresh, and appropriately French, though without adding much spontaneous ornamentation. (...) He has a reliably gentle touch as he rounds off phrases with subtle rubato. He is in superb control, even when the tempo is fast. (...) If you're seeking a sprightly set of these suites in good sound, here is an excellent one for consideration.

BACH: Keyboard Pieces 3
Benjamin Alard, hpsi and org
Harmonia Mundi 902457 [3CD] 209 minutes

(...) This set is supposedly about Bach's Weimar years, 1708-1717, more or less, along with French-styled influences on him during that part of his career. (...) As I said for volumes 1 (J/A 2018) and 2 (S/O 2019), Alard's interpretations for Harmonia Mundi tend to be bland. That's still the case here, and it's unfortunately getting worse rather than better. (...) [For disc 3] the acoustic is so muddy and ugly for the midrange and bass that it is difficult to hear any expressive releases of the notes. (...) It's not clear what has gone wrong with the instrument (or the miking?) here, but there is a serious lack of treble in this recording. (...) [On disc 1] the suites are the extra ones that don't get recorded much, those that didn't make it into the later set of six French suites. (...) We get English Suite 1 here in the version from a little-used manuscript (S. 806a, a copy made probably by Walther). (...) The prospective buyer needs to know, for perspective in the bigger picture: it appears we are going to end up with a "complete" Bach set that lacks the expected standard versions of some pieces, in favor of these rare or capricious alternatives. (...) Organ selections are the program for the 65 minutes of disc 2. (...) The best performance on this disc is the Magnificat fugue (S. 733), where Alard sounds more involved with the emotional character of the text. (...) This glimpse of great potential and ability shows that the other performances of coasting through the notes aren't good enough. (...) There are so many questions [about missing pieces, odd versions, and Alard's bland manner]. (...) There have been problems with some of the instruments in all three volumes, so far; will that keep happening? (...)

BACH FAMILY: Harpsichord Pieces
Charlotte Mattax Moersch
Centaur 3724 -- 58 minutes

(...) From father Johann Sebastian we get the Italian Concerto and the Adagio in G (S. 968, arranged from the solo violin sonata S. 1005). Eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann's piece is the Polonaise in E Minor from his set of 12. Carl Philipp Emanuel's piece is the "Wurttemberg" Sonata in E Minor (Wq 49/3). Those pieces are all familiar, and readily available elsewhere. The rarities are 18 minutes of pieces in F major by younger son Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732-1795): a three-movement Sonata and a short Alla polacca. (...) Mattax Moersch's (...) interpretations are cerebral, serious, weighty, and invested with many tiny details in bending the tempos. (...) There is space where another 20 minutes of music would have been welcome in cogent performances like these. (...) Another volume? Meanwhile, this is superb.

FROBERGER: Fantasias & Canzonas, all
Terence Charlston, clavichord
Divine Art 25204 -- 62 minutes

There are eight fantasias and six canzonas from Froberger's 1649 book. (...) Charlston's delivery is mostly calm and undemonstrative, letting listeners find our own ways through these contrapuntal pieces. It's persuasive, emphasizing the noble dignity and intellectual rigor of the compositions. Charlston is a terrific clavichordist. (...) Other performers mostly skip over these pieces, typically selecting only a few of them within mixed programs in favor of the Suites and Toccatas. So, getting all of these together on a single CD is most welcome, and this is the only way to hear them all recorded on clavichord.

PARADIES: Harpsichord Sonatas
Anna Paradiso, hpsi, clavichord, fortepiano
BIS 2415 [SACD] 88 minutes

(...) Pietro Domenico Paradisi (...) published his 12 sonatas in London in 1754. Each sonata is in two movements of contrasting tempos and character. (...) This recording gives us the first ten sonatas. Anna Paradiso sequences them as she pleases to build this long program. She plays five of the sonatas on a modern Blanchet-styled French harpsichord, three sonatas on a Swedish clavichord from 1792, and two on a Broadwood fortepiano from 1802. (...) Listening to both Paradiso's and [Enrico] Baiano's side by side, I don't feel that either performance is missing anything crucial; both are playful and beautifully complementary, and life's not a competition. (...) The generous program is (...) [too long for a single disc, and therefore some CD players] cannot recognize this CD or play any of it. Maybe this can be reissued someday as a more sensible 2CD set, with the two missing sonatas plus anything else Paradiso wants to play. I want that. (...)

STEFFAN: Harpsichord Concertos
Edita Keglerova, hpsi; Hipocondria Ensemble
ArcoDiva 211 -- 79 minutes

These are the first recordings of four concertos selected from more than 40 by Joseph Anton Steffan (1726-1797). (...) This is all relaxing and unchallenging to listen to as easygoing entertainment. The concertos are in clear-cut sonata form that proceeds logically. The whole ensemble plays with a gently rounded tone that is lovely. Keglerova supplies simple cadenzas at the expected spots, not startling or overwhelming anyone with bravura. (...)

TELEMANN: 6 Harpsichord Partitas; Concerto
Andrea Coen, hpsi
Brilliant 95683 -- 72 minutes

All of these pieces are (...) primarily for oboe with basso continuo. Telemann as a canny salesman said on the title page that they could be played by violin or flute, or as harpsichord solos. (...) Coen has written or improvised his own straightforward arrangements to turn this into harpsichord music, mostly just interpolating simple harmonic filler between melody and bass (using Telemann's figured-bass symbols). (...) I haven't been able to find a harpsichord recording of these by anyone else; we get what we get. There's not too much that can go awry, as Coen plays tastefully. His tempos and the recorded sound are fine. (...) The pieces are more colorful and sound more like dialogue when played by ensembles. Nevertheless, they work well enough as easy and entertaining harpsichord solos, as demonstrated here. (...)

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 7
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi, virginal
Brilliant 95648 [3CD] 186 minutes

Bravo! It's been a long journey through this staple of the harpsichord repertoire, this large manuscript collecting 297 pieces in various styles. (...) Finally, here we are at the conclusion of the series, with a 3CD set bringing the total to 15 discs. (...) There are 25 pieces by either Giles or Richard Farnaby, 27 by William Byrd, and finally nine anonymous pieces for the last 18 minutes. (...) As usual, Belder is consistently sympathetic and assured in this music--reliable and easy to listen to. He brings a brilliant and confident bravura to the fast runs, but also a natural and relaxed roundness to the phrasing. (...) Having heard any part of the series, and the high quality of the performance and music, the collector probably doesn't need to read these reviews. Just go buy it all, and enjoy it. (...)

The Filippo Dalla Casa Collection
Pablo Zapico, archlute; Daniel Zapico, theorbo
Winter & Winter 910258 -- 59 minutes

(...) The music is unfamiliar, relaxed, and charming. The tunes and the contrapuntal dialogue make easy sense. (...) The pieces come from a manuscript collection by Filippo Dalla Casa (1737-c1811), who was an amateur archlutenist and a professional painter. (...) All of these pieces are played as duos for both players, except that Daniel Zapico plays two solos, and his twin brother Pablo plays one. Most of the pieces really are solos, but these performers have elaborated them with their own arrangements. (...)

Nov/Dec 2020

BACH, CPE: Variations; MOZART: Variations
Ewald Demeyere, hpsi
Challenge 72845 [SACD] 64 minutes

Mozart composed 14 sets of variations. The two examples here are based on French songs: La belle Francoise, K 353, and Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman, K 265. (...) [From CPE Bach] we get the well-known Les Folies d'Espagne, Wq 118/9, and the much longer set based on an Arioso in C, Wq 118/10. (...) Demeyere's performance manner is recognizably Dutch and Belgian: like Leonhardt and van Immerseel (his teacher). He analyzes each piece closely to add hundreds of small distortions of the meter, bringing out anything surprising within each phrase. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Geoffrey Madge, p
Zefir 9670 -- 77 minutes

(...) Madge's expertise at modern music is an asset when he's following instructions in those complicated scores. It's a liability here in playing Bach's. He apparently can't shake off a devotional literalism, like an idolatrous worship of Bach's printed score. (...) There are many superficially attractive moments where Madge plays slowly and delicately, to the point of making the music precious. Elsewhere, though, he just makes the piece laborious and clumsy, especially when his left hand plays accents haphazardly. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 1, 2, 5, 8
Masato Suzuki, hpsi; Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2401 [SACD] 67 minutes

Masato Suzuki (b1981) is the son of Masaaki, recently taking over some of the leadership of his father's long-established ensemble. He plays the harpsichord smoothly. (...) The performances stay safely in the middle of the road by modern standards. There is nothing wrong with them, other than a blandly neutral predictability--once the music has started, nothing disturbing or especially memorable will happen. (...) The performances are ordinary, other than the orchestra's surprising use of extra pizzicato in some of the finale of concerto 5 (S 1056). (...) Concerto 8 (S 1059R) is a reconstruction, a modern arrangement from movements in Cantata 35 plus a very short fragment of a manuscript where Bach started recomposing it as a harpsichord concerto. (...) Because this piece isn't recorded as often as the authentic Bach concertos, and because this is a new arrangement, it might be a sufficient reason to get this disc. (...)

COUPERIN: Keyboard Pieces 2; Organ Masses
Bertrand Cuiller, hpsi; Jean-Luc Ho, org
Harmonia Mundi 902377 [3CD] 216 minutes

(...) By Cuiller's high standard, volume 2 is disappointing. He has discarded the theatrical manner in favor of more caution. (...) The tender melodies don't have as much of a yearning quality. The vigorous parts have less dash. Ordre 1 is almost good enough. (...) Ordre 2 is less satisfactory, unfortunately. He has the harpsichord tuned in meantone, and it sounds terrible when there are notes that can't serve as both sharps and flats. (...) Cuiller doesn't sound committed enough to finding musical expression between the notes. After the first several pieces, he dispatches the rest of this Ordre with a perfunctory efficiency. (...) A more irregular smearing of rhythms and harmonies would have helped this effort, making it sound more casual and spontaneous. (...) We also get both of Couperin's long Masses for organ, played by Jean-Luc Ho. (...) One Mass is for use in convents, and the other in parish churches. The music is to be played by the organ in alternation with liturgical singing. That's one of the most attractive features of this recording: getting to hear the singing. (...) [By comparison, James] Johnstone's performances [of the organ Masses] have a stylish lilt and articulative clarity that convey joy. Ho makes things somewhat more somber with legato and some slower tempos, perhaps suggesting a different time of day for the liturgy. (...)

Time Flies
Elaine Funaro, hpsi
Centaur 3783 -- 72 minutes

This is an attractive grab bag of modern harpsichord pieces by 14 composers. (...) Many pieces are single movements extracted from suites or sets of miniatures. Nothing here sounds more difficult to play than Bartok's Mikrokosmos books 3 or 4. (...) This is the fourth of Funaro's CDs of modern pieces that I've reviewed since 2015. It is most similar to "Bela Cycles" (J/F 2018, p199), where part of the program collected short pieces by Alienor winners and runners-up. (...)

Jan/Feb 2021

BACH: French Suites
Thurston Dart, clavichord
Decca Eloquence 482 9398 -- 52 minutes

Thurston Dart recorded this set of Bach's six French Suites for L'Oiseau-Lyre in 1961, when he was 39. For the rest of his short life (he died at 49), he was proud of this as one of his best records. (...) He made full use of the clavichord's dynamic range with crescendos and diminuendos. The bass strings sound closer to the microphones than the treble. (...) This is good to have back in the catalog in Eloquence's attractive budget issue.

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Jimin Oh-Havenith, p
Musicaphon 56981 -- 80 minutes

It's outstanding for the fast variations, mediocre for the slow ones. (...) I like the way she conveys energy, joy, and hope. Her pianistic technique is flawless, and her interpretation carefully organized. Many of the tempos, staccato articulations, and rigid interpretations of ornamentation are recognizable from the handful of recordings by Glenn Gould and Rosalyn Tureck. (...) The weakest points are the slow variations 13 and 25, which plod without an Adagio "at ease" character of flexibility. The stiff literalism misses the Baroque expressivity implied beyond the notation (the same failings from Gould's and Tureck's interpretations). (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier book 2
Steven Devine, hpsi
Resonus 10261 [2CD] 149 minutes

Devine has completed what he started with book 1 (Sept/Oct 2019). He has played book 2 with the same harpsichord and same ad hoc temperament strategy (based on "Kirnberger 3", but slightly adjusted to dodge some of its roughest spots). (...) The performance virtues are consistent, as expected: good moderate tempos (a few are driven too fast), well-practiced fingering, and clear delineation of the counterpoint. (...) Because Bach used less rhythmic variety within pieces here than he had done in book 1, there is always some danger of relentlessness in long passages. Devine falls into that trap, relying on his fluency and the listener's patience with firm tempos. (...)

COUPERIN, A-L: Harpsichord Pieces
Christophe Rousset
Aparte 236 [2CD] 101 minutes

It's good in isolation, but not great against tough competition. Armand-Louis Couperin (1727-1789) was a nephew of Francois Couperin. (...) Rousset brings his usual technical polish and straightforward powerful drive through the given notes and rhythms. The virility of this interpretation is sure to please listeners who like such high energy, along with all the notated repeats. He is better at the fast music than the slow. (...) Rousset's set costs more than twice as much as either of the single CDs by Moersch or Paul. Despite being perfectly played technically, and in excellent sound with all the repeats, I can't prefer it. (...)

GRAZIOLI: Harpsichord Sonatas; Variations; Pastorale
Chiara Minali, hpsi and org
Brilliant 95935 [2CD] 155 minutes

Giovanni Battista Grazioli (1746-1828) published these two sets of sonatas in Venice in 1780. It's the kind of keyboard music where a pleasant phrase goes by, you know what the next three consequent phrases will be, they happen, and by the end of the piece you've forgotten everything that happened. (...) Almost everything is in major keys. The left hand usually has an uninspired series of accompanimental figures from broken triads. (...) [Her harpsichord] sounds decent enough, but the unisons are out of tune very often when Minali couples the manuals together. (...) Despite the general thinness of the musical content, I wanted to hear more relaxation and grace in it, and more probing to differentiate the pieces from one another.

KRIEGER: Harpsichord and Organ Pieces, all
Alejandro Casal
Brilliant 95873 [2CD] 136 minutes

This is Johann Krieger (1652-1735), not his more prolific older brother, Johann Philipp Krieger (1649-1725). He published his two books of keyboard music in 1697 and 1699. (...) As one might expect from turn-of-the-century music in Germany, this sounds like Pachelbel or Kuhnau. (...) Casal plays fittingly and cleanly. To break up the sameness of pieces in book 2, he switches to organ for about half of them and plays it with a similar efficiency. (...)

The Hitchcock Spinet
Abel, Burney, Geminiani, Loeillet, Mattheson, Telemann, Veracini
Anke Dennert, spinet; Gabriele Steinfeld, v; Simone Eckert, viola da gamba
Genuin 20696 -- 68 minutes

(...) The spinet is a small single-manual harpsichord built sideways to fit into a tight space. This one belongs to a Telemann museum in Hamburg. Anke Dennert plays four multi-movement solos on it. One or both string players join her for the four other interspersed pieces, giving a nice variety to the presentation. (...) Dennert's interpretations here are generally glib and fast. (...) Someone neglected to list Veracini on the front cover. His Sonata 12 (1744) and Burney's are the most substantial pieces here, taking us beyond the genteel rococo smile of the other salon pieces. (...)

Mar/Apr 2021

BACH: Little Books
Francesco Corti, hpsi
Arcana 480 -- 79 minutes

(...) [Corti's program is] loosely organized around the several books for Bach's wife and children. About half of these pieces are by other composers: Kuhnau, Hasse, Bohm, Couperin, and Telemann. Almost everything is in flat keys, giving the program an amiable warmth. (...) Corti includes a partly improvised prelude S 815a for the French Suite 4. He plays an earlier manuscript version of the suite, and he elaborates it freely in the repeats. It sounds like spontaneous music flowing out of him. Kuhnau's piece is the Biblical Sonata about King Hezekiah. Telemann's is a keyboard arrangement of one of his orchestral suites (Ouvertures). Three of the twelve movements are omitted. (...) Purchasers of a download version can get all of it, as the missing movements (for a total of five minutes) are edited into the tracks at the ends of other movements. (...)

BACH: Notebooks for Anna Magdalena Bach
Jan Depreter, g
Brilliant 95533 -- 79 minutes

This is a selection of little pieces from the several books Bach and his family compiled for home use. (...) It seems to be an album for people who aren't going to listen to the music as anything but a mellifluous background sound. Guitarist Jan Depreter gives most of the pieces a placid sameness in his too-smooth interpretations. (...) Tracks 1 (Wachet auf) and 17 (Bist du bei mir) are disasters. (...) Depreter has little to say as he ambles through his clumsy arrangements.

BACH: Musical Offering; 14 Canons; Vom Himmel hoch
Pentatone 5186840 -- 68 minutes

Calefax is a Dutch quintet of reed players. (...) The arranger (...) shuffles together the movements to make a plausible concert sequence, interspersing the assorted canons among the movements of the trio sonata. (...) The six-part ricercar obviously needs six players some of the time, but Calefax has only five members. They hired Arthur Klaassens, a player of English horn and lupophone (a rare instrument resembling a bass oboe). (...) The program includes the 14 short riddle canons, S 1087, based on the bass line of the Goldberg Variations. (...) The variations on Vom Himmel hoch go far beyond the expected instrumentation and transposition of the organ piece, S 769, extending it to last more than 22 minutes. (...) The carefully balanced tone colors and the dynamics in the phrases give these pieces layers of fresh beauty beyond the keyboard originals. (...)

BACH: Partitas
Colin Tilney, hpsi
Music & Arts 1301 [3CD] 157 minutes

The recorded sound and the intonation are first-rate, but those virtues don't rescue these performances from a general lack of energy and involvement. The music's brilliance and humor are drained away through this matter-of-fact reading of the notes--a disappointment. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 1
Marcel Worms, p
Zefir 9674 [2CD] 109 minutes

Most of this is lovely. (...) The music flows easily with only subtle emphasis. Tempos are moderate. (...) Overall, this is recommendable to anyone wanting to hear this genteel manner on piano. (...) Worms's control of quiet serenity has led me to his recordings of blues-inspired piano pieces and Federico Mompou. (...)

MATTHESON: The Melodious Talking Fingers
Colin Booth, hpsi
Soundboard 220 -- 70 minutes

Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) dedicated this 1735 book to Handel, who had been one of his friends many years earlier. (...) The fugues sound mostly old-fashioned to me, rather like Pachelbel's. Several of them have two or three subjects. (...) Colin Booth has a strong affinity for this composer. The new release is a companion to his set of those suites, the best I have heard. (...)

Volume 25
Pascal Pascaleff, p
Naxos 8.574146 -- 68 minutes

Volume 6
Carlo Grante, p
Music & Arts 1299 [7CD] 480 minutes

(...) Pascal Pascaleff is a Bulgarian in his mid-20s. (...) His keyboard dexterity is fine, of course, but I don't hear that he has much to say musically in these pieces. He plays cleanly without finding much differentiation or expressive depth, treating the scores like exercises. (...) His assigned sonatas are these 18 that most listeners probably won't recognize as familiar ones: K 153, 167, 206, 221, 243, 252, 281, 297, 307, 343, 350, 371, 408, 437, 451, 480, 501, and 538. (...)

Grante's project deserves highest praise. This 7CD release as volume 6 completes the comprehensive series that he started in 2009. (...) The 119 sonatas here are K 31-40, 42, 45, 51-52, 58-68, 70-86, 88-93, 95, 97, 102-103, 117, 141-147, 452-453, 514-555, and 14 other sonatas that don't have K numbers. (...) For all the careful presentation of sources and performance practices in the booklet, Grante's performance itself is frankly ahistorical. It matches the clean modern sound of his new piano. (...) There are some miscalculations (for example, K 39 really is too fast), but Grante's interpretive choices generally make sense with his thoughtful preparation and analysis. (...) This genial performance and the recorded sound are good enough that Grante makes me want to go listen to his whole series sometime...even though modern piano isn't my general preference for this rugged and unpredictable music.

May/Jun 2021

BACH: Keyboard Pieces 4
Benjamin Alard, hpsi, pedal hpsi, org
Harmonia Mundi 902460 [3CD] 197 minutes

Alard's volume 4 in his survey of Bach's keyboard music is consistent with the virtues and caveats we have heard from volumes 1-3. (...) Like before, we get mostly an efficient Apollonian breeze through the notes. Once we've heard about fifteen seconds of each piece, we know how the rest of it is going to go: fluently, but reluctant to provide surprises. (...) I keep wondering if we'll eventually get some hodgepodge boxes to catch up with all of the omitted pieces.

BACH: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue; 2 Toccatas; Capriccio; Sonata
Jillon Stoppels Dupree, hpsi
Centaur 3810--73 minutes

(...) This is harpsichord musicianship at its best. Dupree brings out a dozen ideas on every page to let the music be expressive. She integrates her subtle nuances into interpretations that sound both coherent and passionate. (...) Her rhythmic vitality makes me move my body while listening. She sets up snappy articulations as the default touch for a passage, and then chooses several notes to smear together or to give a momentary ritardando, as accents. It's inspiring, and never boring. (...)

BACH: Partita 1; English Suite 2; Toccata in D; Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue
Jill Crossland, p
Divine Art Diversions 24169--75 minutes

(...) Crossland, an English pianist, is particularly good at the parts she has chosen to make quiet and delicate. There could be more drive in place of the phrases she has rounded off, but she makes pleasant effects. (...)

BACH: French Suites; Suite in E Minor; Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerck
Brilliant 96227 [2CD] 150 minutes

(...) His staggering of attacks among the voices too often seems like a caricature of harpsichordists' practices, where we do it to help the instrument's dynamic expression (some real, some created through arts of illusion in the timing). Rubsam's extreme dislocation of the beat is interesting, but it impedes the melodic and rhythmic progress of the phrases. (...) His style with piano had humor and grace. That's why his new recording here on lautenwerck is such a letdown. His tempos have become much slower, the phrasing makes less sense, and the pieces don't dance anymore. (...)

BACH: Partitas
Asako Ogawa, hpsi
FHR 92 [2CD] 151 minutes

It's a valiant lockdown project: a worthy effort overall, reasonably good but not great. (...) She doesn't sound like a principal harpsichordist to me, but like a fluent pianist playing the notes on harpsichord as a secondary instrument. It's the kind of playing that might impress people who are satisfied with fast-finger skills. (...) Her generically uneventful performances make me focus more on the occasional oddities than on feeling engaged with the music. (...) The allemandes, courantes, sarabandes, and gigues could have more graceful phrasing, not sounding so much like relentless trudges or mindless cardio exercise. (...)

COUPERIN, L: Harpsichord Pieces in D Minor; Tombeau; COUPERIN, F: Harpsichord Pieces
Luigi Chiarizia
Urania 14064--66 minutes

(...) It's dreadful. (...) The intonation is ghastly in these pieces, with a poorly chosen temperament exacerbated by badly out-of-tune unisons. The mediocre performance doesn't compensate for any of that sourness. (...)

KERLL: Keyboard Pieces, all
Matteo Messori, hpsi and org
Brilliant 94452 [3CD] 173 minutes

Johann Caspar Kerll (1627-1693) was a German who worked in Brussels, Munich, and Vienna. (...) Matteo Messori's performances are reliable. The pitch varies from piece to piece as he switches among three modern reproduction harpsichords and a 1732 organ. (...) John O'Donnell plays faster in general, and he makes different choices of harpsichord vs organ. (...) Aficionados will want to hear both.

PARADIES: Harpsichord Sonatas, all
Alessandro Simonetto
Brilliant 95867 [2CD] 107 minutes

Pietro Domenico Paradies published these 12 sonatas in London in 1754. (...) Simonetto plays with strong rhythmic drive. In a few places he lets it get frantic, adding to the excitement in these zany pieces. (...)

PLATTI: Harpsichord Concertos; Violin Concerto
Roberto Loreggian, hpsi; Federico Guglielmo, v; L'Arte dell'Arco
CPO 555219--64 minutes

(...) These are pleasant Vivaldi-ish concertos for harpsichord or violin, expertly performed on period instruments, and not otherwise recorded much. (...) We get four of the nine extant harpsichord concertos. These harpsichord concertos are numbered 48, 52, 54, and 57 in this composer's catalog, and the violin concerto is 18. The soloists and ensemble play alertly. (...)

TISDALE: Virginal Pieces, all
Charles Metz
Navona 6330--79 minutes

This beautifully played program includes all of the available virginal or harpsichord pieces composed or copied by William Tisdale (d. 1603 or 1605). (...) Metz rescued this instrument from an antique shop in Illinois where it was for sale as "painted furniture". (...) The instrument sounds terrific, with smoothly-transitioned tonal contrasts across its bass, midrange, and treble. Metz's sensitively intimate performances bring out the somber and sprightly characters of these pieces. (...) The recorded sound is good, but the production isn't perfect. (...) There are about ten seconds where the music is digitally garbled and it rushes ahead. (...) The draw for Metz is his extraordinary rescued instrument.

VALENTE: Harpsichord Pieces
Paola Erdas
Hitasura 5--68 minutes

This is Antonio Valente's Intavolatura de Cimbalo, from Naples in 1576. Paola Erdas plays some of the pieces on an original 16th century virginal, the rest on an original 16th century harpsichord. (...) In the slower pieces not based on dances, Erdas's flexibility brings out the sense of free improvisation beautifully. (...) As an encore, Erdas finishes her program with Carlo Gesualdo's extravagantly wacky Canzon Francese del Principe, one of only two extant harpsichord pieces by him. (...)

Jean Kleeb, clavichord
Da Vinci 348--60 minutes

The program is like a stream of consciousness, going through whatever music Kleeb wants to make up on his clavichord. He includes snippets of themes to recall much older pieces, and then takes them in new directions with different rhythms and harmonies. (...) [Most of the music] is either composed or improvised by Kleeb, with the joy of making an audience smile. It's easily recommendable.

Jul/Aug 2021

BACH: Goldberg Variations

Malcolm Archer, hpsi
Convivium 64 -- 65 minutes

Peter Watchorn, hpsi
Musica Omnia 601 [2CD] 88 minutes

A good performance, and a great one. Malcolm Archer has a modern copy of the 1728 Christian Zell harpsichord, built by Alan Gotto in 2000. He plays with careful attention not to rush or to smear anything. (...) Archer's project is a worthy effort, but there are also a hundred other harpsichord recordings of this composition. It doesn't stand out.

Peter Watchorn's recording does. It is extraordinary. I've been enjoying and revisiting it for more than a month, savoring its rightness. (...) The overwhelming feature in this performance is the humanity, the intuitive reactions as Watchorn lets the music go where it leads. His phrases have subtle irregularities, enough to keep stimulating and rewarding interest from moment to moment. (...) As Watchorn writes in the dedication, he celebrates the life of his partner, Greg Miller, who died at the end of 2018. (...) We get to listen in to this private memento, and to repeat it whenever we feel it's needed. It's just so beautiful. This is why we need music in our lives.

BACH: Partitas 1, 4, 5
Haskell Small, p
MSR 1717 -- 79 minutes

(...) He goes for serenity and chooses tempos on the moderately slow side. Playful spontaneity is missing as he lines up Bach's notes in neat metrical packets. The even-fingered surface is delicate and pretty, some of it coming from harmonic pedaling. As attractive as a gently understated delivery is, the music needs more robustness and bending than this. (...)

BACH: Leipzig & Schubler Chorales; Canonic Variations
James Johnstone, org
Metronome 1096 [2CD] 128 minutes

These sets of chorales cover the catalog numbers from S 645 to 668, plus S 769 (Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch). (...) Johnstone plays a 1737 organ by Treutmann. (...) The embellishment (mostly written out by Bach) sounds stylish and magnificent. Johnstone understands where this French and Italianate luxuriance comes from, before Bach. He brings out the flexible nuances of natural acceleration and deceleration within these melodic lines, as only approximated by the notation. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier
Niklas Sivelov, p
HVB 1501 [4CD]

Sivelov (born in 1968) is a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where he recorded this. His pianism is so compelling that I want to hear everything he plays. (...) Sivelov has shuffled together both books of the WTC. The preludes always stay matched with the correct fugue, and the sequence is still chromatic. (...) There is a claim here of tuning the piano to an unequal temperament proposed by Thomas Gerhard. (...) That lack of strong direction in modulation is why this temperament does not seem like or act like a typical 18th century unequal temperament. It's more like a piano tuner's trick to let the natural-note scales and triads sound only slightly better than the others, but still pseudo-equal. (...) Sivelov has the uncanny knack of sounding like two or three people doing different things simultaneously. His control of the piano is so confident and complete that he can bring his creative ideas into the interpretation with no apparent effort. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 3, 5, 6; Triple Concerto
Francesco Corti; Il Pomo d'Oro
Pentatone 5186 889 -- 62 minutes

(...) Corti and his band completed this volume 2 in the first week of March 2020, during the last few days before pandemic lockdown in Italy. Despite the uncertainties of professional life, they have made another fabulous recording. The main change is that they used fewer players (one per part) for these remaining concertos. (...) In Concerto 3:1 Corti's harpsichord solo in the recapitulation gets increasingly disconnected from the score with suitable elaboration. It's fantastic. If this were a rock concert, I could imagine a light show and puffs of smoke as the harpsichord and harpsichordist spontaneously combust for this brilliantly played (and improvised?) section. (...)

CAMPIONI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Simone Stella
Brilliant 95997 -- 74 minutes

The reliable Stella gives us six cheery sonatas by Carlo Antonio Campioni (1720-1788), published in 1763. (...) As the dates and the "Alberti bass" figures of broken chords suggest, this is in a transitional style leading toward early piano music. Mozart and Cherubini knew these pieces. (...) This album is easily recommendable, and there is no competition.

CORRADINI: Ricercars; VENDI: Canzonas
Federico del Sordo, org, hpsi
Brilliant 96136 -- 65 minutes

I had never heard of thse composers, but I like this. It's 52 minutes of ricercars by Nicolo Corradini (1585-1646), and 13 minutes of canzonas by Fr Mattia Vendi (early 17th century). It sounds like contrapuntal organ music by their contemporary Froberger, with ricercars and canzonas based on short melodic fragments. (...) Federico del Sordo is better at organ than harpsichord, needing more variety to his touch on the latter instrument. (...) Obscure early 17th century counterpoint seems to be a good niche for him. (...)

SCARLATTI: Sonatas 5
Christoph Ullrich, p
Tacet 267 [2CD] 140 minutes

(...) Volume 5 takes us through Sonatas K 177 to 205. Ullrich again relies on his consistency and tonal beauty as he goes through these pieces cleanly and in steady moderate tempos. In a few places he tries the effect of playing repeated passages up an octave for contrast. (...) There is a bonus track that Ullrich calls Scarlark where he has clarinetist Ib Hausmann improvising with him. (...) This unexpected little piece is welcome, and it is the most memorable feature of the set. (...)

STORACE: Harpsichord and Organ Pieces, all
Enrico Viccardi
Brilliant 95455 [2CD] 139 minutes

Bernardo Storace (c1637-after 1664) collected these two "forests" of his various compositions in two books published in 1664. There are 23 pieces for unspecified keyboards. Many of them are based on repeated bass or harmonic patterns, and full of scintillating elaborations. Viccardi mixes together the pieces from both books, eventually getting to all of them in his new sequence. He plays two organs, a Grimaldi-styled harpsichord, and a spinet. (...)

WORGAN: Harpsichord Pieces
Julian Perkins, Timothy Roberts
Toccata 375 -- 77 minutes

Londoner John Worgan (1724-1790) is little-known now, but Handel and others who heard him endorsed him as a great player and improviser. (...) His style is quirky, probably deliberately so. Imagine a blend of Domenico Scarlatti, Handel, Geminiani, JC Bach, and young Mozart. (...) Both of these players do well in bringing out the humor and brilliance of the pieces. (...)

Sep/Oct 2021

BACH, CPE: Keyboard Pieces 40
Miklos Spanyi, hpsi
BIS 2387 -- 82 minutes

(...) There are two symphonies, a concerto, and 18 short pieces. There are no other comprehensive recordings of these. Spanyi plays a big Ammer harpsichord built c1965. It includes a 16-foot stop that helps with the grand orchestral effects. (...) Spanyi's elaborate schemes of registrational changes make the performances sound old-fashioned, like the 1960s style of George Malcolm.

BACH: Cello Suites
Hopkinson Smith, lute and theorbo
Naive 7385 [2CD] 145 minutes

(This submitted review was not edited or printed by ARG, so I include it in full here. ARG had already printed reviews of the two discs issued separately. ARG's policy is not to review items more than once, usually, even when a reissue adds different value.)

This was last reviewed in Jul/Aug 2013 when it was available as two separate discs, not a set. The recordings are old and well-known. The recording dates are 1980 (Suite 5), 1992 (4 & 6), and 2012 (1, 2, 3). I have the older Astree CDs where Suites 4 and 6 were paired, and the 2CD set where Suite 5 was among Smith's recordings of the lute works.

For the new booklet notes, Smith recycled the English translations of the essays from the earlier editions. He discarded the French and German, and he smoothed the transitions between sections analyzing the music. He added a new two-page introduction.

The 2012 part of this set, a direct reissue, includes the first three suites played on a "German theorbo" (Sylvius Weiss's invention in the 1720s). The 1980 and 1992 recordings are remastered. Smith plays 13-course lutes for those Suites 4 to 6. The sound is good, but near the end of Suite 4's Gigue the pitch goes flat briefly.

Why play these suites on something other than a cello? The lute and theorbo can sustain more notes at once than a cello. They can clarify the implied counterpoint and make explicit some harmonic progressions that don't have bass notes. On the other hand, part of the fun in cello performances is the imagination of voices not played.

Smith has made his own arrangements, except that Suite 5 was arranged by Bach and then transposed up a step by Smith. I disagree with some of his added harmony notes, especially in Suites 1 to 3. Four bars from the end of the Sarabande in Suite 3 there is a more obvious problem. He has a phrase played a whole step too low, a transposition error when he arranged this from the cello's C major into F major. He plays that same wrong phrase on both repeats.

Nigel North recorded all six of these suites on lute. That 1995 set (Linn, not reviewed) is out of print but worth seeking. I prefer it to Smith's. He also fashioned his own arrangements. More of his bass notes and harmonies make sense to me.

Pascal Monteilhet has recorded his own theorbo transcriptions of all the suites. (Virgin for Suites 1 to 3, 2000; Zig Zag for Suites 4 to 6, 2002; not reviewed) I bought the Zig Zag disc when it was new, and I thought the performance was too slow and gentle, but now I like it more. An unfortunate lapse happens in Monteilhet's arrangement of Suite 6's Gigue where several bars of the music are omitted.

Whether or not you want the cello suites on lute or theorbo, don't miss Smith's outstanding set of the violin sonatas and partitas (Nov/Dec 2000).

BACH: English Suites
Pieter-Jan Belder, hpsi
Brilliant 96060 [2CD] 144 minutes

(...) Belder (...) keeps things lively without being too fast. His interpretation is alert, fresh, easy to listen to, and unchallenging. He simply lets the music emerge without anything "wrong" happening, in effect letting Bach speak for himself. His phrase endings include a subtle and natural-sounding tempo rubato, letting the pieces breathe well. The concentrated pathos in Suite 3 is a highlight. (...)

BACH: Harpsichord Pieces
Rinaldo Alessandrini
Naive 30581 -- 79 minutes

Alessandrini plays 23 minutes of Bach selections in A minor, then 31 minutes in D minor, and finally 25 minutes in C minor. (...) He dashes through the pieces efficiently with a brusque and severe manner. I wish he would let the music smile and relax more. (...)

BACH: Transcriptions, Italian Concerto; BUSONI: Toccata
Francesco Piemontesi, p
Pentatone 5186 846 -- 52 minutes

(...) This CD is better than the similar piano-transcription programs by Vikingur Olafsson (Jan/Feb 2019), Ann-Helena Schluter (Sep/Oct 2019), and Polina Osetinskaya (Mar/Apr 2020). Piemontesi understands the grand 19th century manner to match these transcriptions. The arrangers are Busoni, Kempff, and Schnaus. (...) His interpretation of the Italian Concerto is light and mostly staccato. I'd rather hear him dig into it more, like the rich tone he gets in the other pieces. (...)

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 1
Luca Guglielmi, hpsi
Avi 8553232 [2CD] 116 minutes

(...) He plays the Christian Zell harpsichord from Hamburg, 1737. He gives Bach's preludes and fugues a fluent "Urtext" interpretation, not reacting much to the notes and phrases as they go by. He holds steady tempos like going through a successful pianistic technical exercise. (...) The temperament for this performance is Neidhardt's 1732 scheme for organs in a big city, which he had recommended in 1724 for smaller cities. (...) I compared this with the 2019 set by Enrico Baiano. (...) It's a more passionate, intense, and emotionally compelling reaction to the music than Guglielmi's less-involved readings of the notes.

FROBERGER: Harpsichord Suites 2
Gilbert Rowland
Divine Art Athene 23209 [2CD] 117 minutes

Rowland plays 12 more of Froberger's suites, like in his volume 1 (Sep/Oct 2019). A projected volume 3 will complete the series. (...) Rowland is cautious and prim with his interpretation. (...) I wish his trills would be more varied and expressive. Whenever he starts these ornamental figures, a listener can guess exactly how they will go in their consistent speed and neutral character. (...) Bob van Asperen's (...) adventurous performances show what is missing from Rowland's polite geniality. (...)

KRIEGER: 6 Partitas; Harpsichord Pieces
Tatjana Vorobjova
MDG 921 2204 [SACD] 77 minutes

It's another fine recording of the interestingly chromatic suites by Johann Krieger (1652-1735). (...) Vorobjova plays the book of six partitas (1697) and adds five selections from Krieger's second book of assorted pieces (1699). Vorobjova plays in a remarkably expressive manner. (...) She has admirable control of de-synchronized attacks and releases and the "overholding" technique of building extra resonance. (...) Vorobjova has the advantage of a richer-toned recording than [Alejandro] Casal's. Collectors interested in this rarely recorded repertoire will want to hear both of their interpretations. (...)

RAMEAU: La Famille Rameau
Justin Taylor, hpsi, p
Alpha 721 -- 79 minutes

(...) The composers from Rameau's family are Claude (1689-1761), Claude-Francois (1727-1788), and Lazare (1757-1794). The program also includes an astounding set of variations on Rameau's Les Sauvages, worth the price of the disc by itself. The composer of that is Jean-Francois Tapray (c1738-c1819). Taylor has an uncommon ability to sustain tension and intensity when he chooses slow tempos. (...) At the other extreme, his performance of L'Egyptienne is surprisingly frantic. (...) At the end of this terrific recital, Taylor switches to an 1891 Erard piano to play Debussy's Hommage a Rameau from the first book of Images, 1905. There is a rapt stillness in this performance.

SIRET: Harpsichord Suites
Vera Alperovich, Daniele Luca Zanghi
Brilliant 96130 [2CD] 129 minutes

Nicolas Siret (1663-1754) published these books in Paris in 1710 and 1719. There are six suites of six to 14 movements. As French Baroque harpsichord music goes, Siret's music is especially difficult to play, and for similar reasons to Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre's. (...) Harpsichordists Vera Alperovich and Daniele Luca Zanghi share the task. (...) They take turns playing a modern copy of a Hemsch instrument. Both of these players seem timid and cautious with it, reluctant to play robustly. (...) [Much of the] performance is marred by having the harpsichord badly out of tune in its unisons. (...)

WEISS: Lute Sonatas 61, 93, 95, 96, 97
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerck
Brilliant 95509 -- 76 minutes

Rubsam plays sonatas 61, 93, 95, 96, and 97 selected from the catalogue of Sylvius Leopold Weiss's lute works. He uses his Lautenwerck, a gut-strung harpsichord designed to play lute music like this. I have had misgivings about some of Rubsam's Bach recordings on this instrument. (...) This Weiss album is much better. His tempos flow more easily. The tone and intonation are excellent in producing the warm, rich chords. (...) Rubsam's attractive program here is important in filling repertoire gaps.

Nov/Dec 2021

ANGLEBERT: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Karen Flint
Plectra 22101 [4CD] 242 minutes

The pieces come from a 1689 edition published by Jean Henry d'Anglebert (1629-91), plus additional pieces from a 1670 manuscript. (...) Karen Flint plays three original Ruckers harpsichords (1620, 1627, 1635) restored by John Phillips, who did the maintenance and tuning. (...) For the comprehensiveness and the uncommonly beautiful tone of these instruments, plus all of the documentation, this set is easily recommendable to anyone serious about understanding this repertoire. Highlights here include the pieces in C on disc 4, less often recorded than the big suites in G and D, plus the rarities near the ends of the other discs. (...) [The review also includes my survey of other d'Anglebert recordings.]

BACH: Goldberg Variations

Alexandra Papastefanou, p
First Hand 110 -- 79 minutes

Parker Ramsay, harp
King's College Cambridge 49 -- 79 minutes

Alexandra Papastefanou (...) brings out different tone colors simultaneously among the parts, as a harpsichordist would do more naturally with two keyboards of contrasting stops. Her tempos are in typical piano-consensus range, flowing easily. (...) Beatrice Rana's recording (...) has more imaginative and spontaneous details plus a clear architecture. Next to Rana's, the otherwise excellent Papastefanou performance sounds prosaic. It's recommendable, anyway.

Parker Ramsay is a young harpist who made this record before the age of 30. (...) Part of the challenge on any instrument is to make them sound this easy and relaxed. (...) Throughout his remarkably gentle performance, his delicate touch makes the piece intimate and pure in ways I have not heard on any other instrument. (...)

BACH: Violin Partita in D Minor; CAGE: Cheap Imitation; The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
Diamanda La Berge Dramm, v; Michelle O'Rourke & Katinka Fogh Vindelev, voices
Genuin 21739 -- 65 minutes

La Berge Dramm is a 30-year-old violinist born in Amsterdam. (...) The performance of the Bach partita is disappointing. (...) It all sounds tentative, lacking conviction and boldness. The Chaconne is worse. (...) La Berge Dramm engaged two singers to rearrange and perform this with her. (...) John Cage's Cheap Imitation was originally a piano piece to fill a ballet contract in 1969. (...) Cage transcribed and published it for violin solo in consultation with Paul Zukofsky. (...) The existing recordings are by Zukofsky (1979) and Irvine Arditti (Complete John Cage edition, volume 32, 2005). Both are better than La Berge Dramm's. (...)

GIARDINI: 6 Flute & Harpsichord Sonatas
ConSerto Musico
Brilliant 95625 -- 67 minutes

This is the best CD of unknown music I have heard all year, a delight. It's an album to recommend to a friend who needs some good cheer. The composer is Felice Giardini (1716-96). His name means "happy gardens", and that's how these sonatas sound. (...) ConSerto Musico is flautist Mario Folena, harpsichordist Roberto Loreggian, cellist Francesco Galligoni, and bassoonist Paola Frezzato. They play on period instruments, most noticeably Folena's wooden flute and Frezzato's bassoon. (...)

HANDEL: Harpsichord Suites 4+5; MUFFAT: Suite 3; Ciacona
Flora Fabri
CPO 555 325 -- 74 minutes

(...) Handel and the slightly younger Muffat (1690-1770) were mutual admirers professionally, but they never met. Everything in this program is from a 1739 book by Muffat: his own compositions and his arrangements of Handel's. (...) Muffat's (...) elaborate arrangements show what Handel's harpsichord music can sound like when heavily ornamented with turns, one-note slides, and parallel thirds. There are so many ideas that the Allemandes of both Handel suites seem ready to burst under the colorful graffiti. (...) Flora Fabri plays brilliantly, making this thick music sound easy enough and well-organized (difficult tasks). (...)

PASQUINI, B: 2-Keyboard Sonatas
Marina Scaioli & Francesco Tasini, hpsi
Tactus 631804 -- 80 minutes

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710) assembled this set of sonatas in 1703-4. (...) The harpsichordists both invent their parts from figured bass, accompanying each other. The stereo effects, echoes, and rhythmic interplay are the point of this music, because there aren't catchy melodies. Tasini has sketched realizations for both players, so there is some unity in their melodic ideas, but they both improvise beyond that. (...) I wish they had projected some brinkmanship, such as trying to out-ornament one another in their improvisations. It's clean, safe, polite, and pleasant.

PICCHI: Harpsichord Pieces
Simone Stella
Brilliant 95998 -- 74 minutes

The complete surviving harpsichord music by Giovanni Picchi (1572-1643) takes only 40 minutes. To make this a more substantial program, Stella plays 34 minutes of "other Venetian gems" by Padovano, Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, and Bellavere. (...) [Stella] is at his best here with the early 17th Century Italians. He sets firm dance grooves and plays with ecstatic drive. (...)

Keynotes: Early European Keyboard Music
Corina Marti, org, organetto, clavisimbalum, claviciterium
Ramee 1916 -- 66 minutes

(...) Marti arranges and improvises from her sources in convincing ways. It all sounds fresh and otherworldly. (...) The program is a showcase for the exotic sounds of very early keyboard instruments. She plays a 15th century organ in Altenbruch, Germany. There are two small hand-pumped organettos. (...) The claviciterium is a gut-strung harpsichord, contrasting with the clavisimbalum's metal strings. (...)

Jan/Feb 2022

BACH: Art of Fugue
Filippo Gorini, p
Alpha 755 [2CD] 97 minutes

(...) Gorini's performance is accurate enough with the notes, but slow and cautious with a boring legato touch. The contrapuntal lines lose direction. He pedals through repeated notes, spoiling the rhythmic drive in both Contrapunctus 8 and 11. (...) I watched his online performance video that confirms what I hear in the CDs -- he doesn't have fingerings that work without the crutch of the piano's sustaining pedal. His right foot destroys his interpretive range. (...) Gorini's metaphysical poetry doesn't convince me, either. His "symbols and layers of meaning" are made up, looking like too many excuses not to let the music dance. (...)

BACH: Goldberg Variations; MANNEKE: Gedanken zu Bach
Hannes Minnaar, p
Challenge 72859 [2CD] 98 minutes

(...) [Manneke's short piece] is tonal noodling on Bach fragments, attractive enough but not very memorable. (...) The main event (...) is superb. Minnaar's performance has a natural flow. (...) Ornaments sound spontaneous and graceful, tastefully outside tempo so they really sound like ornaments. In repeats (taking all of them) he subtly rebalances the voices to illuminate different lines. (...) I have at least thirty other recordings of this on piano, and within that aggregation I hear Minnaar's set as far above average. (...)

COUPERIN, A-L: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Yago Mahugo
Brilliant 95459 [2CD] 114 minutes

Mahugo has recorded both big sets of pieces in G and B-flat (including major and minor of each), plus the Four Nations. (...) Mahugo is at his best in the most athletic pieces, jumping with arpeggios and hand crossing. The slow pieces are drab. (...) [He short-changes] the grace and pathos that other players have found in this repertoire. I get tense listening to him. Sour intonation plagues [some of the pieces]. (...) He's a fluent and energetic player, but I wish he and his producers would take more care with cleaning up such untidy details. It would let the music sound more beautiful.

COUPERIN: Concerts Royaux
Stephen Schultz & Mindy Rosenfeld, f; Alexa Haynes-Pilon, viola da gamba; Jory Vinikour, hpsi
Music & Arts 1302 -- 61 minutes

This set is essential for its simple grace. (...) Couperin didn't specify the instrumentation for this chamber music beyond making some general suggestions. Ensembles make their own arrangements to suit their personnel and strengths. (...) Some of the pieces are played entirely by Vinikour as harpsichord solos, or with his harpsichord starting them and the other players soon joining in. Haynes-Pilon sometimes plays the bass line with her viol, or sometimes up in the violin range. The two wooden flutes have beautifully pure tone, and Schultz and Rosenfeld phrase gracefully with them. The pieces sound splendid here as elegant and lightweight entertainment. (...)

GOLDBERG: Trio Sonatas, all
Ludus Instrumentalis
Ricercar 426 -- 70 minutes

There are five trio sonatas and a prelude and fugue by this young student of J S Bach. (...) Ludus Instrumentalis is an ensemble of young Russians who emigrated to Cologne. They play well enough, but I'd also welcome a broader range of expression in their articulation and tone. I hear an earnest sameness in their interpretations from piece to piece, generic expertise without much personality. It is still a more than adequate introduction to this collection of enjoyable sonatas.

KREBS: Harpsichord Pieces 1
Steven Devine
Resonus 10287 -- 72 minutes

We read about Bach's student, Krebs, in the history books but we rarely get to hear his music. Steven Devine is filling that gap. The performance and sound are first rate. (...) I am eager to hear volume 2.

Grand Tour: Handel, Forqueray, Bach, Scarlatti, Rameau, Boutmy
Korneel Bernolet, hpsi
Ramee 2009 -- 80 minutes

This is a showcase for an original Dulcken harpsichord from 1747, with compositions chosen to be also in or near that year. (...) Josse Boutmy (1697-1779) has the biggest place here, 30 minutes. (...) We also get Handel's four-movement concerto based on Judas Maccabeus, all of Forqueray's first Suite in D Minor, Bach's three-voiced Ricercar from the Musical Offering, Scarlatti's Sonatas K 238-9, and Rameau's La Dauphine. (...) All of these performances are terrific, among the best. (...)

Le Fier Virtuose: 17th Century French harpsichord pieces
Arnaud de Pasquale & Francois Guerriere
Chateau de Versailles 47 -- 71 minutes

The theme is Louis XIII's court. Arnaud de Pasquale has assembled four suites of pieces by various composers, going by key (D, C, F, G) and character. Some of the pieces are his own arrangements for one or two harpsichords, where Francois Guerriere assists him. (...) About a fifth of the program might be familiar to fans of the standard 17th Century French harpsichord repertoire--Chambonnieres and Louis Couperin. The rest of the music is either obscure or freshly arranged for this album. (...) The whole set is so well done that I've kept running the CD on repeat play for hours. It's music for dancing and enjoyment.

17th Century Violin Sonatas from Kromeriz Collection
Antoinette Lohmann, v; Jorn Boysen, hpsi; Maria Sanchez Ramirez, c
Globe [2CD]

The Kromeriz collection is from 1664-1695, in Moravia. Most of these are world premiere recordings. (...) [The pieces] are enjoyable and well-crafted examples of extravagant solos for violin and continuo. (...) The second disc is entitled "Alternative Tunings in the Di Martinelli Violin Manuscript". (...) The "alternative tunings" title means violin scordatura like Heinrich Biber's, setting the open strings to unusual combinations of notes. The tunings help the player to play double stops and triple stops extremely well in tune, as well as grounding the music in a home key. Trills in double stops sound amazing. (...)

Mar/Apr 2022

BACH: Fantasia S 906; Partita 2; French Suite 6; English Suite 6
Elisaveta Blumina, p
MD+G 904 2232 [SACD] 72 minutes

BACH: Italian Concerto; French Overture; more
With Fantasia and Fugue S 904; Sonata S 964
Alessandra Artifoni, hpsi
Dynamic 7922 -- 66 minutes

With Toccata in D, S 912; Chaconne from S 1004 Aya Hamada, hpsi
Evidence 83778 -- 66 minutes

BACH: Art of Fugue
Eloise Bella Kohn, p
Hanssler 1049 [2CD] 82 minutes

BACH: Viola da Gamba Sonatas; Trio Sonata S 527; Allemande from Partita S 1013
Sarah Cunningham, gamba; Richard Egarr, hpsi
Avie 2491 -- 65 minutes

CHELLERI: 7 Harpsichord Sonatas
Luigi Chiarizia
Brilliant 96308 -- 71 minutes

MARAIS: Viol Pieces, Book 1
Atsushi Sakai & Marion Martineau, gamba; Christophe Rousset, hpsi
Aparte 264 [3CD] 177 minutes

SCARLATTI: 20 Sonatas
Luisa Guembes-Buchanan, hpsi
Del Aguila 56001 [2CD] 86 minutes

Sonatas 1-30
Hank Knox, hpsi
Leaf 248 [2CD] 126 minutes

WECKMANN: Toccatas, Canzonas, Suite; TUNDER: Praeludium; FROBERGER: Ricercar; SCHEIDEMANN: Benedicam Domino; RITTER: Suite, Sonatina
Yoann Moulin, hpsi
Ricercar 433 -- 56 minutes

Fogliano to Froberger: A Century of Ricercars
Colin Booth, hpsi & ottavino
Soundboard 221 -- 61 minutes

Tradition and Transcription: Bach and Leonhardt
Skip Sempe, hpsi
Paradizo 18 -- 64 minutes

May/Jun 2022

BACH: Goldberg Variations
James Richman, hpsi
Centaur 3821 [2CD] 84 minutes

Peter Tomasz, p
MSR 1791 -- 79 minutes

BACH: Lute Pieces
Jakob Lindberg
BIS 2552 -- 88 minutes

COUPERIN, L: Suite in F; COUPERIN, F: Ordre 17; FORQUERAY: Suite 5 excerpts
Jonathan Rhodes Lee, hpsi
Navona 6389 -- 51 minutes

HANDEL: 8 Harpsichord Suites; Opera Arrangements; Chaconne
Bridget Cunningham
Signum 679 [2CD] 154 minutes

KAPSBERGER: Lute Pieces Book 1
Frank Bungarten, 10 string guitar
MDG 904 2200 -- 64 minutes

MUFFAT, Gottlieb: Harpsichord Suites 3
Naoko Akutagawa
Naxos 8.574098 -- 67 minutes

SCARLATTI: Piano Sonatas

37 Sonatas
Michael Korstick
CPO 555 473 [2CD] 156 minutes

Volume 6: K 206-235
Christoph Ullrich
Tacet 269 [2CD] 156 minutes

Critical Edition & Hans von Bulow's Anthology
Giulio Biddau
Aparte 283 [2CD] 151 minutes

Versailles Westminster
Harpsichord and Organ at Versailles
Constance Taillard
Chateau de Versailles 56 -- 79 minutes

Jul/Aug 2022

ARAJA: 8 Capriccios; PELLEGRINI: 6 Sonatas
Enrico Bissolo, hpsi
Brilliant 96482 -- 67 minutes

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Jean Rondeau, hpsi
Erato 190296508110 [2CD] 107 minutes

Klara Wurtz, p
Piano 10230 -- 77 minutes

BACH: Little Keyboard Book for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach
Yuan Sheng, clavichord
Brilliant 96455 [2CD] 129 minutes

BACH: Keyboard Pieces 6
Benjamin Alard, hpsi & clavichord
Harmonia Mundi 902466 [3CD] 162 minutes

BACH: Toccatas; Prelude & Fugue S 894
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerk
Brilliant 96437 [2CD] 115 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 2
Luca Guglielmi, fortepiano
AVI 8553233 [2CD] 133 minutes

DIEUPART: Harpsichord Pieces, arranged
Marie van Rhijn ensemble
Versailles 60 -- 65 minutes

GALUPPI: Keyboard Sonatas

Sonatas 2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10
Fernanda Damiano, p
Brilliant 96346 -- 68 minutes

8 Sonatas
Luigi Chiarizia, hpsi & org
Dynamic 7923 -- 61 minutes

HANDEL: 8 Harpsichord Suites; Opera Arrangements
Francesco Corti
Arcana 499 [2CD] 147 minutes

RAMEAU: Pieces de Clavecin en Concerts
Accademia Strumentale Italiana
Challenge 72905 -- 64 minutes

Sep/Oct 2022

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Tianqi Du, p
Naive 7566 [2CD] 88 minutes

BACH: Toccatas 2, 3, 5; Italian Concerto; Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue; Harpsichord Pieces; JOVANOVIC: Toccata 6
Slobodan Jovanovic
Thorofon 2676 - 74 minutes

BACH: Partitas 1+4; English Suites 3+5; Preludes & Fugues
Lillian Gordis, hpsi
Paraty 1521.280 [2CD] 138 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 2
Andrew Rangell, p
Steinway 30176 [2CD] 145 minutes

RAMEAU: Concerts en Sextuor
Les Accents; Thibault Noally, v and cond
Aparte 254 - 60 minutes

SCARLATTI, A: 10 Toccatas; Harpsichord Pieces
Marcello Di Lisa
CPO 555 401 -- 57 minutes

Nov/Dec 2022

BACH: Concertos for 2 Harpsichords; Harpsichord Concerto S 1059

Francesco Corti, Andrea Buccarella; Il Pomo d'Oro
Pentatone 5186 966 -- 56 minutes

Harpsichord Concertos 3, 4, 6, 7
Masato Suzuki; Bach Collegium Japan
BIS 2481 [SACD] 60 minutes

Harpsichord Concertos 1-7; Triple Concerto S 1044; Brandenburg Concerto 5
Pieter-Jan Belder; Musica Amphion
Brilliant 96070 [2CD] 152 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 1
Schaghajegh Nosrati, p
Avi 8553509 [2CD] 103 minutes

FISCHER: 8 Harpsichord Suites
Colin Booth
Soundboard 222 -- 75 minutes

GEMINIANI: Harpsichord Pieces, all
Filippo Emanuele Ravizza
Brilliant 95190 [3CD] 180 minutes

MARCHAND: Suite in D Minor; BACH: Partita 4; Chaconne
Alexander von Heissen, hpsi, clavichord
Hanssler 22048 -- 66 minutes

SARIEL: Mandolin Partita; BACH: Cello Suites 1+2
Alon Sariel, mandolins, lutes
Pentatone 5186 985 -- 69 minutes

Joachim Held
Hanssler 22017 -- 66 minutes

Jan/Feb 2023

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Nathaniel Mander, hpsi
ICSM 18 -- 42 minutes

JONES, R: Harpsichord Suites
Francesco Fornasaro
Brilliant 96311 [2CD] 120 minutes

MUTHEL: Harpsichord Sonatas & Duets
Anna Clemente, Giacomo Benedetti
Brilliant 96344 [3CD] 141 minutes

PACHELBEL: Hexachordum Apollinis; Chaconne
Enrico Bissolo, hpsi
Dynamic 7961 -- 59 minutes

L'Aimable: French Harpsichord Pieces
Celine Frisch
Alpha 837 -- 72 minutes

The Fall of the Leaf
Giulia Nuti, virginal
Arcana 532 -- 54 minutes

Wanda Landowska
Wanda Landowska, hpsi & p
Profil 22027 [10CD] 11 hours 16 minutes

Mar/Apr 2023

BACH: Harpsichord Pieces
Pieter-Jan Belder
Brilliant 96065 [3CD] 204 minutes

HANDEL: Harpsichord suites 2, 3, 5, 7, 8
Ton Koopman
Challenge 72923 -- 67 minutes

RAMEAU: Persian Operas arr for 2 Harpsichords
Loris Barrucand, Clement Geoffroy
Chateau de Versailles 79 -- 60 minutes

Maria Clementi, p
Da Vinci 607 -- 79 minutes

Bach to Black 2
Piano pieces by Kay, Burleigh, Ring, Price, Moorman, Walker; Bach's Partitas
Rochelle Sennet, p
Albany 1910 [3CD] 212 minutes

May/Jun 2023

BACH: Partitas
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerck
Brilliant 96464 [2CD] 151 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier; Partitas; Goldberg Variations; Concertos; more
Jorg Demus, Paul Badura-Skoda, p; Vienna State Opera Orch/Redel
Eloquence 484 2053 [11CD] 10:28

GALUPPI: Harpsichord Sonatas
Alvise de Piero
Urania 14093 -- 78 minutes

KRASA: Kammermusik; KALABIS: Harpsichord Concerto; MARTINU: Harpsichord Concerto
Mahan Esfahani, hpsi; Prague Radio Symphony / Alexander Liebreich
Hyperion 68397 -- 61 minutes

SPINACINO: Lute Pieces, 1507; DALZA: Lute pieces, 1508; CARA: Io non compro piu speranza
Hopkinson Smith
Naive 7545 -- 65 minutes

STROBEL: Lute pieces
Tobias Tietze
Arcantus 22033 -- 52 minutes

VITALI: Artificii Musicali
Andrea Coen, hpsi
Brilliant 96686 -- 71 minutes

From Gesualdo to Piccinni
Margherita Porfido, hpsi
Terra Gialia 1 [2CD] 70 minutes

Mousike, The art of muses
Harpsichord music by contemporary female composers
Luca Quintavalle, hpsi
Brilliant 96476 -- 76 minutes

Jul/Aug 2023

BACH: Art of Fugue; WEBERN: String Quartets
Richter Ensemble
Passacaille 1129 -- 78 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier 1
Andreas Staier, hpsi
Harmonia Mundi 902680 [2CD] 109 minutes

BACH: Keyboard Pieces 8
Benjamin Alard, hpsi and clavichord
Harmonia Mundi 902469 [3CD] 204 minutes

CHERUBINI: Fortepiano Sonatas
Simone Pierini
Brilliant 96246 -- 67 minutes

COUPERIN FAMILY: Harpsichord Pieces
Benjamin Alard
MarchVivo 7 -- 71 minutes

SCARLATTI: 12 Sonatas
Gabriele Leporatti, p
Etera 4 -- 49 minutes

SWEELINCK: Variations; Harpsichord Pieces
Fabio Antonio Falcone
Challenge 72926 -- 59 minutes

Album for the Lute
Bernhard Hofstotter
TYXart 28001 -- 73 minutes

Anthony Romaniuk, keyboards
Alpha 913 -- 68 minutes

Sep/Oct 2023

BACH, CPE: Keyboard Pieces; BACH: English Suite 2; Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue
Einav Yarden, p
Challenge 72952 -- 76 minutes

BACH: Art of Fugue
New Collegium, Claudio Ribeiro
Ramee 2208 -- 74 minutes

Casals Quartet
Harmonia Mundi 902717 -- 68 minutes

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Fazil Say, p
Warner 5054197233968 -- 76 minutes

BACH: Flute Partita; Suite 2; Harpsichord Concerto 4; Triple Concerto
Claire Genewein, fl; Jorg Halubek, hpsi; Il Gusto Barocco
Berlin 6203 -- 78 minutes

BACH: Partitas 1, 5, 6
Nils Anders Mortensen, p
Lawo 1249 -- 75 minutes

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier
Wolfgang Rubsam, lautenwerck
Brilliant 96750 [5CD] 5:43

Gradus ad Parnassum
Jean Rondeau, hpsi
Erato 5054197416170 -- 82 minutes

AMBROSINI: Secret Pages; KAPSBERGER: Theorbo Pieces
Stefano Maiorana
Arcana 541 -- 59 minutes

Nov/Dec 2023

BACH, CPE: 6 Fantasias; 2 Fugues; Sonata; Rondo; BACH, JS: Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue
Aapo Hakkinen, clavichord, fortepiano
Brilliant 96567 -- 76 minutes

BACH: Harpsichord Pieces
Colin Booth
Soundboard 223 -- 74 minutes

BACH: Piano Pieces
Jonathan Phillips
Divine Art 21102 -- 76 minutes

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 2, 5, 6; Brandenburg Concerto 5
Hanover Band; Andrew Arthur, hpsi & dir
Signum 764 -- 69 minutes

HANDEL: 8 Great Suites; Chaconne
Asako Ogawa, hpsi
First Hand 142 [2CD] 133 minutes

JOLLAGE: Harpsichord Suites 1 & 2
Fernando de Luca
Brilliant 96773 -- 76 minutes

SCARLATTI, A: 4 Cantatas; SCARLATTI, D: 6 Sonatas
Alice Duport-Percier, s; Petr Skalka, c; Dirk Borner, hpsi
Prospero 66 -- 74 minutes

Bach Minimaliste
Adams, Gorecki, Bach, Nystedt, Alain
La Tempete; Simon-Pierre Bestion, dir; Louis-Noel Bestion de Camboulas, hpsi
Alpha 985 -- 76 minutes

Flamboyant Bien-Aime
The Harpsichord of Louis XV
Clement Geoffroy
Chateau de Versailles 108 -- 77 minutes

Frescobaldi and the South
Frescobaldi, Michelangelo Rossi, de Macque, Rodio, Stella, Lambardo, Salvatore, Storace
Francesco Corti, hpsi
Arcana 547 -- 81 minutes

Pas de Bourree
Campra, Roman, Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi, Purcell
Camerata Oresund
Channel 45823 -- 65 minutes

Jan/Feb 2024

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 1, 3, 4, 8
Steven Devine, hpsi; Orch of the Age of Enlightenment
Resonus 10318 -- 64 minutes

BACH: Goldberg Variations
Oliver Schnyder, p
Prospero 38 -- 75 minutes

Bach and Italy
Bach, Vivaldi, Alessandro Scarlatti, Marcello
Justin Taylor, hpsi
Alpha 998 -- 72 minutes

BACH: Prelude and Fugue S 894; French Suite 6; Concerto S 978; Partita 6
Ian Pritchard, hpsi
Tesserae [no number] -- 76 minutes

BACH: Partitas 1, 2, 5; Corrente; OEHLER: Brook of Light
Royal Academy of Music Soloists Ensemble; Trevor Pinnock, cond
Linn 730 -- 70 minutes

JACQUET: Violin Sonata 1; Harpsichord Suite 2; BACH: French Suite 2; Toccata S 912
Juliane Oberegger, v; Svitlana Rud, Davide Cicconi, hpsi
Digressione 140 -- 58 minutes

COUPERIN: Royal Concerts
Les Folies Francoises; Patrick Cohen-Akenine, v and cond
Chateau de Versailles 99 -- 60 minutes

MCLEAN: Sonatas for 1, 2, or 3 Harpsichords; Incantations
Elaine Funaro, Beverly Biggs, Rebecca Pechefsky, hpsi; Geoffrey Burgess, oboe
Alienor 84239 -- 71 minutes

The Queen's Harp: Music at the Court of Marie Antoinette
Krumpholtz, Haydn, Hermann, Gluck
Xavier de Maistre, harp; Les Arts Florissants; William Christie, cond
Harmonia Mundi 8732276 -- 70 minutes

Mar/Apr 2024

Best of Year 2015

DUPHLY: Harpsichord Pieces (Hamada) LiveNotes 7784, N/D

BIRD: The Oriental Miscellany (Chapman) Signum 415, N/D

Best of Year 2016

Mersenne's Clavichord (Charlston) Divine Art 25134, J/F: 190

BACH: Violin Sonatas (Schayegh, Halubek) Glossa 923507 [2CD], J/A

ROMAN: Keyboard Sonatas 7-12; AGRELL: Sonata 2 (Paradiso) BIS 2135, J/A

MOZART: Piano Sonatas 1-6 (Prosseda) Decca 4812632 [2CD], S/O

MOZART: Harpsichord Duets (Timpanaro, Policardo) Stradivarius 37045, N/D

Best of Year 2017

FORQUERAY: Harpsichord Pieces (Taylor) Alpha 247, J/F

BACH: Toccatas, Fantasias, Preludes, Fugues, Pastorale (Watchorn) Musica Omnia 512 [3CD], M/J

Orpheus Descending (Edwards) Early 7778, M/J: 165

Il Cembalo di Partenope (Vicens) Carpe Diem 16312, J/A: 186

Conversations (Minkin, Shemer) Omnibus 5012, S/O: 180

DODGSON: Harpsichord Inventions (Likhina) Naxos 970262, N/D

Mad Dog (Smith) Naive 8940, N/D: 236

Best of Year 2018

HOWELLS: Lambert's Clavichord, Howells' Clavichord (Perkins) Prima Facie 65, J/F

Le Coeur & l'Oreille (Nuti) Arcana 434, J/F: 200

SCHEIDEMANN: Organ & Harpsichord Pieces (Rassam) Brilliant 95427 [2CD], M/J

JACQUET: Harpsichord Pieces (Lanfranco) Brilliant 95555 [2CD], J/A

LIGETI: Harpsichord Pieces; SCARLATTI: 12 Sonatas (Taylor) Alpha 399, N/D

MCLEAN: Harpsichord Sonatas; JANELLO: Concerto for Two; Toccata-Rondo (Funaro, Pechefsky, Biggs) Alienor 1210, N/D

Best of Year 2019

JOHANNES OF LUBLIN: Keyboard Tablature (Marti) Brilliant 95556, J/F

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 6 (Belder) Brilliant 95458, J/F: 176

PACHELBEL: Keyboard Pieces, all (Stella) Brilliant 95623 [13CD], M/J

BACH: Violin Concertos (Faust) Harmonia Mundi 902335 [2CD], J/A

COUPERIN: Harpsichord Pieces, all (Cerasi) Metronome 1100 [10CD], N/D

BACH: French Overture; English Suite 6; Sarabande (Mortensen) LAWO 1174, N/D

Best of Year 2020

BACH: Art of Fugue; 4 Duets; Ricercars (Belder) Brilliant 96035, J/F

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 1, 2, 4, 7 (Corti) Pentatone 5186837, J/A

Organic Creatures (Vicens) Consouling Sounds 139, J/A: 147

2 Lutes With Grace (Lewon & Kieffer) Naxos 573854, J/A: 162

Filippo Dalla Casa Collection (Zapico) Winter & Winter 910258, S/O: 123

Fitzwilliam Virginal Book 7 (Belder) Brilliant 95648, S/O: 124

Best of Year 2021

BACH: Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue; 2 Toccatas; Capriccio; Sonata (Stoppels Dupree) Centaur 3810, M/J

BACH: Goldberg Variations (Watchorn) Musica Omnia 601, J/A

BACH: Harpsichord Concertos 3, 5, 6; Triple Concerto (Corti) Pentatone 5186 889, J/A

RAMEAU: La Famille Rameau (Taylor) Alpha 721, S/O

GIARDINI: 6 Flute & Harpsichord Sonatas (ConSerto Musico) Brilliant 95625, N/D

Keynotes: Early European Keyboard (Marti) Ramee 1916, N/D: 120

Best of Year 2022

Grand Tour (Bernolet) Ramee 2009, J/F: 121

17th Century Violin Sonatas (Lohmann) Globe 5279, J/F: 143

BACH: Art of Fugue (Bella Kohn) Hanssler 1049, M/A

Yoann Moulin, hpsi (Moulin) Ricercar 433, M/A: 165

HANDEL: 8 Harpsichord Suites (Corti) Arcana 499, J/A

BACH: Concertos 1-7; Triple Concerto S 1044; Brandenburg Concerto 5 (Belder) Brilliant 96070, N/D

Best of Year 2023

BACH: Well-Tempered Clavier etc (Demus) Decca 484 2053, M/J

Mousike, The Art of Muses (Quintavalle) Brilliant 96476, M/J: 142

BACH, CPE: Fantasias (Hakkinen) Brilliant 96567, N/D

SCARLATTI, A: Cantatas (Duport-Percier) Prospero 66, N/D

Flamboyant Bien-Aime (Geoffroy) Versailles 108, N/D: 131

An artistic Credo:

Great performance is a creative and imaginative act of communication, speaking directly to the audience in the language of musical speech and gesture. It is not an attempt to articulate another person's intentions exactly, which is impossible. Nor is it a slavish adherence to instructions, a supposedly selfless attempt to reproduce some platonically perfect work according to a set of rules. A performer must bring the music to life today, with exactly the right expression relevant to the actual moment.

Historical knowledge is helpful insofar as it encourages performers to be more insightful, expressive, and communicative: recognizing the music's character and its native language, identifying its unique features, taking all of that to heart, and finding some way to bring it out. It can free performers from the deadly habit of not thinking--as long as it does not simply replace that with some different habit of not thinking! At its best, historical techniques of expression enlarge a performer's imagination and command of the musical language (vocabulary, syntax, and usage patterns). It sparks one to approach the music in a vital and creative manner, today, thinking and feeling like a composer or improvisor in the moment of inspiration: coming to the performance with fluent language and something to say. Such is the type of performance that allows the music to live and breathe, as natural communication among living souls. - BPL, 4/12/03