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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D minor BWV 1052 [21:19]
Keyboard Concerto No. 2 in E BWV 1053 [21:16]
Keyboard Concerto No. 3 in D BWV 1054 [18:28]
Keyboard Concerto No. 4 in A BWV 1055 [15:10]
Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor BWV 1056 [10:00]
Keyboard Concerto No. 6 in F BWV 1057 [15:48]
Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor BWV 1058 [14:43]
French Suite No.5 BWV 816 [18:21]
Andrei Gavrilov (piano)
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields/Neville Marriner
rec. No.1 studio, Abbey Road, London, April 1986; Slovak Philharmony, Bratislava, May 1984 (French Suite)
EMI CLASSICS 3 81482 2 [71:15 + 69:18]

 


Two of the Bach EMI twofer sets I’ve encountered recently are Maria Tipo’s Goldberg Variations and other keyboard works and this Gavrilov-Marriner collaboration dating from 1986. It also includes a valuable filler, his recording of the French Suite No.5 recorded in the Slovak Philharmony in Bratislava. It’s a good performance though one subject to occasionally damaging rubati – the Loure doesn’t flow well.

The Concertos are sane, sensible, sensitive performances. Those looking for feats of eccentricity, peculiarity and self-indulgence will find very little to fuel their interests. Gavrilov is certainly capable of some barnstorming elsewhere on disc and in concert but here, allied to the occasionally suave but benign leadership of Neville Marriner and the Academy, one finds that the results are consistently warm and thoughtfully productive.

The performances are marked by richness of string tone, buoyancy of rhythm,  clarity of articulation and depth of feeling in the slow movements. The D minor’s Adagio is highly expressive in these hands – in this respect the two men are in full accord – with the Academy’s strings richly basted. Finales are crisp and clear – this one is especially lively, darting and alert. The central movement of the Concerto in E is hardly a Siciliano, which naturally it should be, but Gavrilov and Marriner subtly convert it in a rather moving, intimate way to something unquestionably deep and gracious. And the subsequent Allegro finale works with vitality as a fine contrastive envoi.

The opening of BWV1055 is breezy and well balanced and the Academy’s strings are at their most potent and touching in the same concerto’s Larghetto, though they are on highly romantic form for the Largo of the F minor as well. Gavrilov plays throughout with authority and command, though he has been over-recorded throughout and that’s a pity. Something like the slow movement of the Concerto in D can seem rather too slow but in the context of these performances they adhere consistently to a strong viewpoint. In fact for all the springiness of the outer movements it’s the slow ones that catch the ear – try the Andante of the G minor, executed with limpid delicacy.

These then are attractive modern-instrument performances without mannerisms; involved and penetrating, if slow, in the slow movements and sufficiently robust to vest the outer movements with vitality and weight. If you can adjust to the over prominent harpsichord embedded in the texture and to the over-recorded piano you’ll enjoy the totality of Gavrilov and Marriner’s achievement.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 


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