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Johann Sebastian BACH
(1685 - 1750)
Keyboard Concerto #1, BWV 1052 (1738) [22:21]
Keyboard Concerto #2, BWV 1053 (1738) [19:22]
Keyboard Concerto #3, BWV 1054 (1738) [16:22]
Keyboard Concerto #4, BWV 1055 (1738) [13:56]
Keyboard Concerto #5, BWV 1056 (1738) [9:21]
Keyboard Concerto #7, BWV 1058 (1738) [13:24]
Italian Concerto BWV 971 (1735) [12:33]
Feltsman (piano, conductor), The Orchestra of St. Luke's
rec. July 1993, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters,
NI 2541/2[58:25 + 49:50]
(1685 - 1757)
30 Keyboard Sonatas: K.14, 6, 106, 161, 490, 3, 32, 53, 105,
391, 45, 175, 145, 206, 327, 184, 407, 109, 496, 132, 402, 427,
466, 193, 215, 532, 443, 283, 380, 487
rec. April 1994, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters,
Here are more of Nimbus' re-releases from the Music Masters
catalogue. Those unearthing efforts were warmly welcomed
when they offered Vladimir Feltsman's spunky and thoroughly
gratifying Goldberg Variations from 1991. Those efforts are
also welcome when it comes to Feltsman's recording of the
Bach Keyboard Concertos—wholly affable and with liner-notes
by Tim Page.
Admittedly, there is no reason to replace Angela
Hewitt's slightly more complete, and considerably more
recording (Hyperion, also available on SACD), or András
Schiff (Decca), or Murray Perahia (Sony) with Feltsman. But
if you have none of these recordings and you see Feltsman's
about, go ahead and grab it in the secure knowledge that you
will have a very fine account at hand.
Feltsman includes the 'standard 6', BWV 1052-1056 and
1057, but not BWV 1057, the modified Fourth Brandenburg and
the incomplete BWV 1059 — and he adds a performance of
the Italian Concerto. Much of what I said about Browning
— tasteful, level-headed, technical efficacy — applies
here, too, but at the other, upper end of the neutral-positive
spectrum. The Orchestra
of St. Luke's, conducted by Feltsman, turns in a very
spirited performance. And although it's not a HIP band,
their nimble forces and lissome playing make this 1993 recording
sound modern which is to say: devoid of the 19th
and 20th century romantic baroque opulence that had
occurred here and there. Only in the opening Allegro of the
F minor concerto (BWV 1056) is the orchestra minimally heavy-footed;
everywhere else tempos strike lively and natural. Terrific stuff
that makes for happy listening.
The same can't quite be said for the John
Browning Scarlatti Sonata collection that Nimbus has helped
to an extended, budget-priced life-cycle.
Recorded about eight years before his final recital —
at the US Supreme Court (Browning v. Chopin) — it is a
fine testament to Browning's unfussy, level-headed playing.
Everything is tasteful - almost too tasteful - and in place.
There are no technical issues and the sound is good. There's
nothing wrong with it, and it is easy to derive great pleasure
from the thirty popular sonatas Browning chose. But the enemy
of the good is the perfect or, in this case, the very easy availability
of more Scarlatti, performed with more individuality, more spirit,
and generally better — at even less cost. Mikhail
Pletnev's two-disc Scarlatti album (MusicWeb Review
has rightly become the Alpha of all Scarlatti-on-the-piano discs.
It is an inexorable element of any self respecting classical
music collection. After Pletnev it's still not Browning's
recital that vies for immediate attention. There are Yevgeny
Sudbin (BIS), Maria Tipo (EMI), Vladimir Horowitz (Columbia),
Christian Zacharias (EMI) or MDG), Konstantin Scherbakov (Naxos),
Pogorelich (DG) to get to, first.
If you're through those, or if you wish to familiarize yourself
with John Browning's playing, then the Nimbus disc will,
and should, enter your radar. It is a wonderful contrast to
another great Browning recording, that of the Prokofiev Piano
Concertos under Erich Leinsdorf (Testament).
Jens F. Laurson
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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