Andreas Staier is one of the most brilliant and expressive specialists in harpsichord and early piano repertoire. On this compilation of recordings made in 1988 and 1993 he plays two harpsichords: in the Fantasies and Fugues it’s a copy of a very early 18th-century German instrument which was recorded in the Beethovenhaus, Bonn, and in the Italian Concerto and Partita he plays a copy of a later German instrument. The second has a much fiercer impact, or so it sounds in the more reverberant acoustic of a church.
Staier’s playing is fiery, too, but rhythmically disciplined, and in the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue he allows himself just enough licence to emphasise particular moments. He’s almost overwhelmingly brilliant in the outer movements of the Italian Concerto, and in the central Andante his left hand keeps a steady beat while his right shapes the melody with some freedom around it.
In the Partita he gives the Allemande and Sarabande an acceptable amount of elbow room, while the other movements are crisp and tight: the Minuet has some lively staccato and the final Gigue is taken at a furious tempo which is still perfectly controlled. A splendid disc. Adrian Jack