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Albert Fuller: Bach & Rameau for Harpsichord
CD 1 [65:02]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)

Eight Pieces de Clavecin (1724-47)
Suite in A
CD 2 [55:36]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Italian concerto in F
Selections from ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’, Book II (circa 1744)
French Suite No. 6 in E (circa 1722-25)
Suite from the ‘Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook’ (1725)
Albert Fuller, Harpsichord
Rameau: Recorded at the Mission High School Auditorium, San Francisco, CA, USA between the 19-21 August, 1987, using a William Hyman Harpsichord.
Bach: Recorded at The Presbyterian Church, Rye, New York, USA between the 20-22 April, 1992, using a Thomas & Barbara Wolf Harpsichord.
(previously issued on RR-27 and RR-51)

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 Bach’s expressivity."

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 music library

Michael Cookson

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