WORKS: Capriccio BWV 992; Toccatas BWV 910, 911 & 915; Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 894; Aria variata BWV 989
PERFORMER: Kenneth Gilbert (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 437 555-2 DDD
Bach had written all the music on this disc by his early thirties, and it’s immediately striking for its spontaneity and expansiveness compared with the terse craftsmanship of his later years. Kenneth Gilbert is a thoroughly persuasive advocate, binding together the sectional toccatas and sustaining momentum through the long, potentially rambling, fugues.
A high spot is the C minor Toccata with a final fugue so long that its pulse becomes hypnotic: you simply never want it to end. It’s preceded by an Adagio of immense harmonic richness, enhanced by the tone of the fine Taskin-rebuilt harpsichord from Gilbert’s own collection. The programmatic Capriccio on the Departure of his Most Beloved Brother is also compelling, nearly convincing me that a posthorn call is, after all, a viable subject for a fugue!
Congratulations to recording engineers who resist the temptation to stuff our heads under the harpsichord’s lid, but instead seat us a row or two back in the spacious though chamber-scaled acoustic – a room in a museum in Chartres.
Some inconsistent ornaments and a few blemishes slip through the editing, a price probably worth paying for the spontaneity and sense of near-live performance on this delightful disc. George Pratt