In his booklet notes soloist Albert Fuller explains
how as a young man he was inspired by hearing the harpsichord virtuoso
Wanda Landowska on a radio broadcast playing compositions for the harpsichord,
actually played on the harpsichord. Included in Landowska’s programme
was the Italian concerto by JS Bach. In the 1940’s it was rare to hear
the music of Bach played and if it was performed it would be on an instrument
like a Steinway concert grand piano. He recalls, "What was so startling
was the emergence of a hitherto unimagined crisp and rhythmic vitality
evoking song and dance, affects not always understood as central to
The Rameau selection on this disc dates from between
1724-1747 and are typical examples of his harpsichord writing. They
are diverse in form, nuance, feeling and suggestion and fully appropriate
to keyboard technique. Mainly regarded as an opera composer Rameau was
successful in being able to write expressive mood pictures, reflections
of emotional states to noble French dances.
The keyboard music of JS Bach in the view of music
writer WG Whittaker states that "No composer ever spoke such widely
different thoughts… One can find music there to meet all needs, to synchronise
all states of emotion." For this recording the selection has been
chosen from a range of Bach’s compositions from around 1722 to 1744.
Many of the works were composed as educational exercises but as writer
David Ewan explains, "But, like a good many of Bach’s instructional
pieces, they also were lifted by his genius to exalted art."
For this Reference Recording re-release Fuller recorded
the Rameau in 1987 using a William Hyman harpsichord and the Bach in
1992 on a Thomas & Barbara Wolf harpsichord. The sounds of the harpsichords
are quite different with the Hyman instrument offering a far richer
and mellow sound than that of the Wolf. Purely through personal choice
the Wolf harpsichord, on which the Bach is played, allowed me to concentrate
on the music rather than listening to the instrument itself which I
was tempted to do with the Rameau harpsichord.
It is not Fuller’s style to play these selections as
a tour de force displaying a calm authority with a certain amount
of restraint. I like the way he makes sensible choices of ornamentation
playing in a rather understated manner which suits the mood of the recital.
Generally Fuller’s rhythmic control stands him in good stead throughout
and his innate sensitivity is vividly communicated; the effect is wonderfully
enchanting. Even at his most virtuosic, as in the Bach D major fugue
(CD2 track 5), he never shows an ounce of strain as he navigates his
way perfectly through often difficult waters. Additionally, Fuller’s
delicate side is brought out in the Bach Prelude of the French Suite
No. 6 (CD2 track 8) where his playing overflows with charm and subtlety.
This double CD set would prove an excellent purchase
for someone wishing to explore the harpsichord works of Rameau and Bach
for the first time. However in view of Albert Fuller’s excellent performance
and fine sound quality this is a worthwhile addition to any collector’s