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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Rinaldo Alessandrini (harpsichord)
rec. June 2019, Parco Della Musica, Rome
NAĎVE OP30581 [79:02]

This disc arrived only yesterday as I write, since when I have listened to it four times, each time hearing something new and different in Rinaldo Alessandrini’s playing, his easy, fluid style making me want to listen to the disc again and again. This recording brings great joy and its 79 minutes seem to be over all too soon, as it never outstays its welcome. Contrary to the statement in the opening paragraph of the booklet essay that “Any attempt to offer an exhaustive representation of this particular compositional universe on a single CD is bound, therefore, to end in failure if it tries to do more than simply provide a source of listening pleasure”, Alessandrini does not present a slap-dash array of pieces from Bach’s output of over 200 keyboard pieces, but instead offers a highly structured programme of pieces gathered and grouped into three sections, each dedicated to a particular key, A minor, D minor and C minor. Each of these groups starts with a short prelude, then come a two-part invention, a three-part sinfonia, a prelude and fugue from each book of Das wohltemperierte Klavier and concludes with a more substantial piece, so this recital provides much more than mere “listening pleasure.”

The recital opens ideally with the brief but invigorating Prelude in A minor, BWV931 and a highlight of the first section is the Sinfonia in A minor, BWV799 where Bach’s inventiveness is to the fore, and the fugal playing, especially that of the Prelude & Fugue in A minor, BWV889 of the second book of Das wohltemperierte Klavier and the Fantasia & Fugue in A minor, BWV904, is excellent, showing Alessandrini at his best.

The second section opens in the same fashion and the Two-part Invention in D minor, BWV775 really shines, then both the Preludes and Fugues from Das wohltemperierte Klavier come across very well indeed. However, it is the Sonata for Keyboard in D Minor, BWV964 which is the standout piece here; it still sounds odd in Bach’s own arrangement but the work challenges Alessandrini’s virtuosity and he comes through with flying colours.

The superb treatment of the three short opening pieces in final section in C minor is a delight throughout; they are slightly longer and Alessandrini certainly gets hold of them. Indeed, he really shines in the longer pieces such as the Preludes and Fugues from Das wohltemperierte Klavier and especially the Prelude from Book 1 No 2 in C minor, BWV847, which Alessandrini seems to perform at breakneck speed despite its timing actually being no quicker than some other recordings such as that by Bob van Asperen (VBD 5 61711 2. Add to this the excellent performance of the Fantasia in C minor, BWV906 and the Ricercar a 3 from the Musical Offering, and this final section leaves me wanting more.

The recorded sound is very good, and the harpsichord, a 1984 copy by Kees Bom after a Dulcken instrument, comes across particularly well. I would have liked a little more information about it, such as whether it is a double manual, but that does not hinder my enjoyment of this recital. The booklet notes by Esteban Hernández Castelló are useful, especially the way in which they are divided into the shorter works, Das wohltemperierte Klavier and the longer works. A fine disc, which offers the listener a structured survey that is informative as well as providing great listening pleasure.

Stuart Sillitoe

Prelude in A minor, BWV931 [0:59]
Two-part Invention No 13 in A minor, BWV784 [1:12]
Three-part Invention (Sinfonia) No 13 in A minor, BWV799 [1:46]
Prelude & Fugue Book 1 No 20 in A minor, BWV865 [6:38]
Prelude & Fugue Book 2 No 20 in A minor, BWV889 [4:25]
Fantasia & Fugue in A minor, BWV904 [8:47]

Prelude in D minor, BWV940 [0:40]
Two-part Invention No 4 in D minor, BWV775 [0:56]
Three-part Invention (Sinfonia) No 4 in D minor, BWV790 [1:52]
Prelude & Fugue Book 1 No 6 in D minor, BWV851 [3:50]
Prelude & Fugue Book 2 No 6 in D minor, BWV875 [3:44]
Sonata for Keyboard in D minor, BWV964 [18:59]
(originally from Sonata for solo violin BWV 1003)

Prelude in C minor, BWV934 [2:29]
Two-part Invention No 2 in C minor, BWV773 [2:00]
Three-part Invention (Sinfonia) No 2 in C minor, BWV788 [2:07]
Prelude & Fugue Book 1 No 2 in C minor, BWV847 [3:31]
Prelude & Fugue Book 2 No 2 in C minor, BWV871 [3:58]
Fantasia in C minor, BWV906 [5:05]
Ricercar a 3 from the Musical Offering, BWV1079 [6:04]

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