Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971; Harpsichord Concertos, BWV 972, 973, 975, 976, 978 & 980

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Italian Concerto, BWV 971; Harpsichord Concertos, BWV 972, 973, 975, 976, 978 & 980
PERFORMER: Olivier Baumont (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-25504-2
Noble patrons sent their most favoured composers to Rome, Naples and Venice to absorb the fashionable Italian style of the late Baroque. As a humble organist, Bach stayed at home and learnt from available published collections, first arranging them, then demonstrating his mastery in newly composed music. Here, Baumont plays Bach’s six transcriptions of Vivaldi concertos, and crowns the collection with the consummate Italian Concerto.

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Do not be put off by the first track: a high-stepping motoric pulse is strangely disturbed by sudden and irrational tempo changes – heavy editing perhaps, from several ‘takes’ at varying speeds? From this point on, while mercifully avoiding relentless sewing-machine metre, Baumont draws subtle metrical flexibility out of the music itself – confirming an unexpected turn of harmony, pointing a melodic climax, punctuating a paragraph. This is fine playing on a modern copy of a Silbermann harpsichord, golden-toned in the arpeggiated largo of BWV980, immensely powerful as the Italian Concerto romps home.

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Baumont’s articulation is thoughtful and distinctive, sculpting and decorating Bach’s unmarked lines. He avoids ‘systematic changes of register’, so losing the dense chords which frame Vivaldi’s Op. 3/9 Larghetto for instance. But the reward is constant variety of colour and texture throughout this delightful disc. George Pratt