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JS Bach: Concertos for Harpsichord, Vol. 2

Bach Collegium Japan/Masato Suzuki (harpsichord) (BIS)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

JS Bach
Concertos for Harpsichord, Vol. 2
Bach Collegium Japan/Masato Suzuki (harpsichord)
BIS BIS-2481 (CD/SACD)   60:03 mins

Nearly all Bach’s harpsichord concertos are arrangements of earlier works composed for entertainments in the relaxed environment of Gottfried Zimmermann’s Leipzig coffee house and garden where they were directed by the composer, presumably with a number of his sons as soloists. Two of the concertos recorded here are versions of Bach’s two familiar violin concertos, a third is of Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, and the charming A major concerto derives from a concerto for oboe d’amore.

Unsurprisingly, with its appropriately modest orchestral forces, the Bach Collegium Japan goes in for brisk tempos, but without any sense of rushing or impatience. A prime example is the first movement of the D major Concerto, with carefully considered phrasing and excellent timing from the orchestra matched by dazzling harpsichord solo playing. Here, as in the other fast movements, in particular the Allegro assai finale of the fourth Brandenburg Concerto arrangement, Masato Suzuki proves an ideal keyboard soloist balancing moments of zestful virtuosity with some elegant inequality in the passagework. Willem Kroesbergen’s copy of a contemporary Couchet harpsichord on which he plays is characterful with a pleasing range of timbre; and throughout, in these well-recorded performances, it blends attractively with the other instruments.

Jan Smaczny