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JS Bach: Harpsichord Concertos

Francesco Corti (harpsichord); Il Pomo d'Oro (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

JS Bach
Keyboard Concertos Nos 1-4, BWV 1052, 1053, 1058 & 1055
Francesco Corti (harpsichord); Il Pomo d’Oro
Pentatone PTC 5186 837   62:01 mins


Harpsichordist Francesco Corti’s approach to performance might be informed by a rapacious interrogation of historical sources, with evident consequences for matters of tempo, instrumentation and embellishment; but make no mistake, his playing is a powerhouse of unbridled vivacity, exciting and excitable in equal measure. For this first disc devoted to the Bach solo harpsichord concertos he’s assembled four works he believes are heard to best effect with multiple strings and, taking his cue from a surviving set of parts for BWV 1055, an additional continuo harpsichord. His selection describes a trajectory from the protean volatility of the D minor BWV 1052 to the airy, galant eloquence of the A major – the two bookending the siciliano-enfolding E major and the G minor, otherwise familiar as the A minor Violin Concerto BWV 1041.

BWV 1052 is the bullish bruiser of the set, and Corti isn’t the only one spraying testosterone in all directions. His colleagues wield a dashing cut and thrust all of their own. And while the fastidiously moulded Adagio doesn’t hang around, the cantilena has all the space it needs. Some might find the finale a little too breathless, but it packs an exhilarating punch, its precision energising while its athleticism dazzles and teases.

With every gesture scrupulously thought through and polished, the E major, BWV 1053, emerges just as newly minted, though its ‘Siciliano’ sounds a touch hurried. A tad more supple, the drooping wistfulness of the A major, BWV 1055’s Larghetto might have registered more tellingly. Bach’s harpsichord concertos boast a distinguished discography, but Corti finds fresh things to say. Roll on Vol. 2.


Paul Riley