By Peter Grahame Woolf
Courtesy of our friends at classical-london.com
Angela Hewitt - piano
J. S. Bach: Italian Concerto in F major BWV971;Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother, in B flat major BWV992; Capriccio in E major BWV993; Four Duets; French Overture in B minor BWV831
Reviewed by Peter Grahame Woolf
Bach's most popular work for solo keyboard scores over fifty entries in the Classical Catalogue and these two, received recently, offer a fascinating evening's listening played in tandem. Johann Sebastian was sparing with performance instructions, so there is ample scope for individual interpretation; both are recommendable.
Terence Charlston explains how the Italian musical style pervades Bach's keyboard works, even though distant travel was impossible for him and a thirst for music of other lands had to be satisfied through contact with visiting musicians and by studying scores. Charlston inaugurated the Historical Practice course as Head of Early Music in the Royal Academy of Music, and he knows everything about how to make his chosen instrument expressive, by rhythmic variety and subtle agogic treatment of key moments, even though the harpsichord lacks the piano's sustaining pedal, or the 'swell' of later organs. He is equally an emotional and a scholarly musician, and his playing will convince some collectors who prefer their Bach on the piano.
The Ruckers/Howarth harpsichord, closely recorded, is welcome in the living room, with a wealth of rich jangly tone colour captured under the lid. Angela Hewitt, the leading Bach pianist of today, is unexpectedly the cooler of the two in the Italian Concerto's slow movement, and far swifter in the others. Her coloration throughout her delectable CD is delightful, but you may begin to find, as I did, that her discreet surges of 'crescendo' feel slightly gratuitous oft repeated.
There is no overlap of other works and both programmes offer ample variety (to my taste, more attractive than, say, Trevor Pinnock's deservedly award-winning Six Partitas on Hanssler Bachakademie Edn.115). Charlston has the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, and the highly ornamented Aria which became famous as the theme of the Goldberg Variations, and both programmes contain rarer music.
Scores of all the music on both CDs can be acquired for a mere $14.95 in a convenient viewable and printable form on a single CD-ROM of J S Bach Complete Works for Keyboard and Four Part Chorales (CDSheetMusic 810-00005), which includes all the major works plus his Easier Pieces, Miscellaneous Concert Works and Works of Disputed or Doubtful Authenticity. (UK distributor UMP Music Publishers) Also recommended, a recital of 18th Century French harpsichord music by Terence Charlston (Deux-Elles DXL 917).
If you live in the UK...
Both of Terence Charlston's recordings for Deux-Elles are available at a discounted price of £10 each for Classical London readers, including UK postage and packaging. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About the Reviewer:
Dr Peter Grahame Woolf - Founder & Emeritus Editor of Seen & Heard and contributor to many publications including Classical London, Piano Journal, and The Organ.
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