Richard Egarr has made many recordings and performed
for several years with London Baroque, as well as accompanying many
musicians in recordings of sonatas for solo instruments and harpsichord.
His solo recordings include works by Bach, a complete recording of Froberger,
pieces by Gibbons, Louis Couperin and many others. This recording, a
rerelease of a disc first published in 1997, is a selection of Bach’s
solo keyboard music, and includes three major works - the Partita no.
1, French Suite no. 5, and Italian Concerto.
Egarr performs this music on a beautiful instrument
- a harpsichord by Joel Katzman, after Ruckers, that brings out some
amazing sounds in these works. Egarr has a light touch in many of these
pieces - the first movement of the opening Partita no. 1, the opening
Allemande of the French Suite no. 5 - which fit well with the tone of
the instrument. Its crystal-clear sound and resonance are well-suited
to this type of playing.
Yet, when listening to the Partita, one may be disappointed
by the lack of variety in the tempi of the various movements. Egarr
seems most comfortable in a certain mode that allows him to play a somewhat
"precious" style; this is excellent in the Sarabande of the
partita, but his tempi for some of the other movements, notably the
Minuets, seem a bit too slow.
Egarr should be congratulated for his choice of works
in this program. Combining three of the more famous works with a number
of "smaller" pieces - the little preludes, the two well-known
minuets from Anna Magdalena Bach’s notebook, and some of the simple,
yet delightful works from Wilhelm Friedemann Bach’s notebook - is an
excellent choice. As he points out in the notes, some of these little
pieces are tiny gems, that, while brief, contain elements that are quite
indicative of Bach’s keyboard music.
Egarr is very convincing in the "discursive"
movement of the Italian Concerto, the Andante, where, again, his style
seems perfectly in tune with the music behind the music, but in the
rapid Presto that closes out the disc, seems to be carried away by a
rhythm he is not comfortable with.
Recorded in 1995, this disc gives a glimpse of a performer
whose work deserves attention. While I am unfamiliar with his other
solo recordings, this disc makes me want to hear more. Seven years after
this recording, this performer has undoubtedly grown and developed.
While there are some shortcomings to this disc, the selection and instrument
alone make it a worthy purchase.