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Concertos for Harpsichord/Violin/Flute/Oboe d'amore etc
The English Concert/Pinnock. Soloists: Trevor Pinnock, Kenneth Gilbert, Lars Ulrick Mortenson and Nicholas Kraemer (harpischords) Simon Standage & Elizabeth Wilcock (violins) Lisa Beznosiuk (flute) David Reichenberg (oboe & oboe d'amore)
DG Archiv Collectors Edition 463 725-2 [58+68+73+50+46 mins]

Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in D minor BWV1052.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in E major BWV1053.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in D major BWV1054.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in A major BWV1055.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in F minor BWV1056.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in F major BWV1057 with 2 recorders.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings in G minor BWV1058.
Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor BWV1060.
Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C major BWV1061.
Concerto for 2 Harpsichords in C minor BWV1062.
Concerto for 3 Harpsichords in D minor BWV1063.
Concerto for 3 Harpsichords in D minor BWV1064.
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords in A minor BWV1065.
Concerto for Flute Violin and Harpsichord in A minor BWV1044
'Triple Concerto'. Concerto for Oboe and Violin BWV1060.
Concerto for Oboe d'amore in A major BWV1055.
Violin Concerto in A minor BWV1041.
Violin Concerto in E major BWV1042.
Violin Concerto in D minor for 2 Violins BWV1043

Hard on the heels of the DG Panorama pair of CDs reviewed by David Wright comes this other bargain box from the same source, with some overlap. In neatly boxed packaging, only 1½ cm thick, are the complete harpsichord and violin concertos and a few more for other instruments, 19 concertos in all, given under Trevor Pinnock's sensitive and lively direction and recorded perfectly satisfactorily between 1981 & 1984.

It is good to have them re-released at a time when Pinnock, greatly admired as a conductor (see reviews of Handel in S&H), has once again made a stir with his recent recording of Bach Partitas for solo harpsichord.

From the learned, comprehensive and extremely interesting liner notes, we learn that the solo parts in the harpsichord concertos are adaptations of originals for other melody instruments, some movements also deriving from cantatas. This was a normal way of working in those days, and not at all shocking, as such self-plagiarism may seem nowadays (though recomposition is a method employed by many contemporary composers too, to make fullest use of their material).

This box enables direct comparisons, and there is a table at the end detailing the transcription processes. I cannot agree with David Wright that the D minor concerto, the grandest of them all, is 'note spinning and nothing much else'. Its exuberant solo part gives a wonderful idea of Bach's improvisation skills and is very exciting. There is a lightness and buoyancy in Pinnock's direction and playing at all times that is winning and life-enhancing.

I do have reservations about multiple harpsichord concertos, but am glad that the balance is generally good and the harpsichords are not spotlit unduly, as is so often the way with modern concerto recordings. Other particular pleasures are the triple concerto (BWV 1044) and those involving oboe, with the late David Reichenberg a notable soloist.

Do not play any of these CDs straight through, as that can easily lead to 'automatic', inattentive listening. I suggest one concerto a day at breakfast, to give your day a good start.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Reviews from previous months

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