WORKS: Inventions and Sinfonias, BWV 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777, 778, 780, 781, 782, 783, 784, 785, 786, 787, 788, 789, 790, 791, 792, 793, 794, 795, 796, 797, 798, 799, 800, 801
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Joyé (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 34
Elisabeth Joyé is a young French harpsichordist about whom the booklet accompanying what I believe is her first solo disc tells us absolutely nothing. Enthusiasts for the French Baroque, however, may have spotted her keyboard continuo role in ensembles such as La Simphonie du Marais. Her playing of Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias is thoughtful and unhurried – just as it should be, for these pieces had a didactic purpose, openly declared on Bach’s title-page, to assist performers in learning to play clearly in two parts (15 Inventions) and in three parts (15 Sinfonias).
Bach’s further intentions were to demonstrate how to develop a musical idea, to encourage a feeling for composition and to foster the art of cantabile playing. It is this last-mentioned quality, perhaps, which distinguishes Joyé’s performance from some of the more showy, virtuosic gestures of several of her rivals. Some readers may consider her tempi too leisurely on occasion, but that seems to my ears an inclination in the right direction.
The E flat Sinfonia, for example, is allowed to breathe with a freedom which enhances linear clarity and at the same time points up structural features of the piece. The E major and E minor Sinfonias, by contrast, draw fine cantabile playing from Joyé, while the B flat Invention, elegantly shaped and rhythmically supple, reveals all that is most appealing about her approach. Nicholas Anderson