Hans Leo HASSLER (1564-1612)
Canzon [2:32] Nicholas STROGERS (fl.1560-75)
Fantasia, FVB1  William BYRD (1540-1623)
Corranto, MB45 [1:16]
Queen’s Alman, MB10 [4:07]
Ground, MB9 [3:46] John BULL (1563-1628)
Bull’s Goodnight, MB143 [3:36] Orlando GIBBONS 91583-1625)
Fantasia, MB11 [3:05] Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Toccata in G [1:32] Johann Christoph BACH (1642-1703)
Praeludium [5:24] Christian RITTER (1650-1725)
Allemanda in Discessum Caroli XI Regis Sueciae [5:16] Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fantasia, BWV 1121 [2:52]
Aria Variata, BWV 989 [15:22]
Partite Sopra ‘O Gott, Du frommer Gott’, BWV 767 [15:34]
Gustav Leonhardt (claviorganum; harpsichord: JS Bach items only)
rec. February 2003, Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris ALPHA 317 [70:15]
This baldly titled disc is a reissue of Alpha’s 2003 recording and is devoted to the art of Gustav Leonhardt. Since the liner notes by Skip Sempé are, very naturally, focused on Leonhardt’s playing and influence there isn’t room or the desire to reprint the original booklet which would doubtless have gone into some detail concerning the rationale of this recording. So, there’s nothing about the music at all.
Alpha released this disc as part of a small series devoted to the influence of Italian music. One disc was focused securely on French keyboard music and the one under review on English and German music of the time. Those coming afresh to it may well be surprised by Leonhardt’s choice of instrument for the non-Bach items; the claviorganum - a harpsichord attached to organ pipes, both instruments’ voices emerging with a remarkable sonority.
The beguiling use of this hermaphroditic instrument can be savoured in the myriad voicings of Hassler’s Canzon, though no less so in the alternately slow and faster-moving expression of the Fantasia by Nicholas Strogers. The expressive density of which the instrument is capable can be appreciated in Byrd’s Queen’s Alman where the sonorities evoked range from the darkest to the lightest. Throughout the recital Leonhradt established absolute clarity of expression and certainly doesn’t neglect the more quixotic and humorous elements embedded in a couple of the English pieces – notably, of course, John Bull’s Bull’s Goodnight. But of the English pieces perhaps it’s Gibbons’ Fantasia that benefits most from the choice of instrument. The solemn and noble organ voicings open this magnificent piece before Leonhardt deploys the harpsichord to shadow it. Both elegant and eloquent, the music unfolds with naturalness and true honesty.
The three works by Bach are played on a 1995 copy of a German harpsichord from the school of Gottfried Silbermann, c.1735. The results here are equally compelling, the Aria Variata a model of refined intelligence whereas Partite Sopra ‘O Gott, Du frommer Gott’, usually ring-fenced for organists, enjoys this relatively rare harpsichord outing.
But for the parsimonious notes this re-issue would have earned a higher accolade. As it is, its reappearance is both memorable and moving.