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Early Stereo Recordings - Volume 3: Vivaldi and Bach
rec. 1954/1956

The third volume of the Early Stereo Recording series from FHR weighs in at a hefty 84 minutes, so there is no question of short-changing the listener. What’s presented is an all-baroque dish of Bach and Vivaldi and as before one needs to listen having been informed by the extensive booklet notes, as they draw attention in great detail to technical matters, not least session details; there’s even a preserved drawing of a potential studio placement of performers in the Bach Cantata recording.

The first part of the album focuses on concertos in which four different harpsichordists were involved; Thurston Dart, George Malcolm, Eileen Joyce and Denis Vaughan. The Vivaldi Concerto for four harpsichords is an arrangement of his Concerto in A minor, Op.3 No.11 heard in Thurston Dart’s own arrangement. This is its first ever stereo appearance and one can hear a wealth of colour and expression in the disinterred tapes. Given that the instruments were Goff harpsichords, notoriously difficult to project, let alone record, one can hear the close-up microphone placements in these heavy-duty concertos, not least the Vivaldi-Bach BWV1065 where there is a creditable representation of the instruments’ salient qualities. The player most associated with the Goff was George Malcolm, the ringleader of the foursome in terms of colouristic pyrotechnics in his performances, and the very opposite of a stuffed shirt.

Vaughan drops out for the Bach Concerto for three harpsichords, which receives a lively, lovely reading where there’s a notable extroversion in entry points for the three players. Boris Ord directs the Pro Arte Orchestra in all the concertos. Malcolm’s own flamboyant and droll Variations on a Theme of Mozart requires Vaughan’s return. The theme itself is taken from the violin and viola duo in B flat as harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani makes clear in his entertaining portion of the booklet notes.

What follows is a sequence of pieces played by Ralph Kirkpatrick, the product of one of his rare Abbey Road EMI sessions; he made only two LPs for the company. He plays on a revival harpsichord, a Robert Goble and Son more reminiscent of contemporary fashions in harpsichord sound than the Goff. This is highly distinguished playing supported by a cast-iron technique. Sweelinck, Byrd and Froberger bring out the best from him but even in such excellent company Pachelbel’s Ciaconna emerges newly minted, full of fancy, colour, play of left and right hand and ineffable grandeur.

Of the above, the Vivaldi-Dart, Malcolm Variations and Kirkpatrick recordings are heard in first stereo releases. The Vivaldi-Bach and Bach BWV1064 are heard in first stereo releases on CD.

The remaining work has never before been issued in any format. This is Bach’s cantata Bide with us, BWV6, sung – as the titling suggests – in English. Reginald Jacques directs the Bach Choir and Jacques Orchestra and the soloists are contralto Marjorie Thomas and tenor David Galliver. The date was November 1954 and the performers are thus conjectured as the ledgers are absent, but a subsequent released recording was made with these forces in January 1955. The chorale, rendered in nineteenth-century English fashion as O bide with us Thou Saviour dear is by far the most famous piece in the work. It’s sung robustly by soloists and choir.

This is another attractive production in all respects and offers valuable reclamations, and restorations, from the stereo vaults.

Jonathan Woolf

Antonio VIVALDI (1678–1741)
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords and Strings in D minor (arr. of Vivaldi’s Concerto in A minor, Op. 3, No. 11, RV 565 by Thurston Dart)
VIVALDI arr. J.S. BACH (1685–1750)
Concerto for 4 Harpsichords and Strings in A minor, BWV 1065 (arr. of Vivaldi’s Concerto in B minor, Op. 3, No. 10, RV 580)
Concerto for 3 Harpsichords and Strings in C major, BWV 1064
George MALCOLM (1917–1997)
Variations on a Theme of Mozart for 4 Harpsichords
(Thurston Dart, Eileen Joyce, George Malcolm harpsichords: Denis Vaughan harpsichord (1 – 7, 11), continuo (8 – 10)/The Pro Arte Orchestra/ Boris Ord
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562–1621)
Variations on ‘Mein junges Leben hat ein End’
William BYRD (1538–1623)
The tennthe Paviane and Gagliarde ‘Mr W. Peter’
Johann Jakob FROBERGER (1616–1667)
Toccata No. 2
Johann PACHELBEL (1653–1706)
Ralph Kirkpatrick (harpsichord)
Cantata BWV6, ‘Bide with us’ (sung in English)
Marjorie Thomas (contralto): David Galliver (tenor): Osborne Peasgood (organ): Hubert Dawkes (harpsichord): Edward Selwyn (cor anglaise)/The Bach Choir/Jacques Orchestra/Reginald Jacques
Recorded at No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, 5 November 1954 and 1956

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