Bach: Harpsichord Transcriptions
Bach’s solo keyboard transcriptions of concertos by Vivaldi and other Venetian composers probably belong to the later Weimar years, c1714-16. The stimulus seems to have been provided by the young and musical Prince Johann Ernst who had collected manuscripts from his travels in Italy. We can imagine how thrilled Bach must have been to get his hands on such novel music whose form would have been pretty unfamiliar in Saxony and whose idiom was far removed from that nearer home.
Sophie Yates plays all six of Bach’s transcriptions for harpsichord solo from Vivaldi string concertos, as well as two others from an oboe concerto and a string concerto by Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello, respectively. This is music whose fast outer movements are full of energy and demonstrative gesture, though readers familiar with Vivaldi’s originals may on occasion feel that Bach just fails to realise or at least sustain their innate vitality. Yates gives a lively, fluent account of these showy pieces, always keeping in mind the importance of textural transparency. The G major Concerto, BWV 980, is often, as here, equated with the First Concerto (RV 383a) of Vivaldi’s published set La Stravaganza. In fact only the opening movement corresponds with that work, Bach clearly having seen an earlier Concerto (RV 381) in the same key of B flat.