Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971; French Overture, BWV 831; Duets, BWV 802, 803, 804, 805; Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 904

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Italian Concerto, BWV 971; French Overture, BWV 831; Duets, BWV 802, 803, 804, 805; Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue, BWV 904
PERFORMER: Lucy Carolan (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 030
I very much enjoyed Lucy Carolan’s recording of Bach’s six harpsichord partitas when it was first issued by Signum some three years ago. Now she follows it with the Italian Concerto and the Overture in the French Style which form Bach’s Clavierübung II, the four ‘manualiter’ Duets from Clavierübungen III, and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue which remained unpublished during his lifetime.

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Eloquently inflected phrases and clarity of musical argument were features that lent Carolan’s partita recital especial charm. To a great extent they are to be found in her new programme, too, though there are a few unsettling moments. One of these occurs right at the outset of the Italian Concerto, where, in the third and seventh bars, there are little, seemingly hesitant inelegancies, perhaps mechanical, perhaps intended. And in the dazzling, third-movement Presto, Carolan’s otherwise animated and clearly articulated dialogue suffers from occasional impetuosity. Odd, really, because unwarranted rhythmic acceleration is not a characteristic of her playing, which I enjoy for its very virtue of being unhurried. Nor does it occur elsewhere in her recording. Both the Fantasia and Fugue and the impressive French Overture with its appended sequence of varied dances come over fluently and with authority. I would have liked a bit more nobility of gesture in the opening bars of the Overture, but it is a small gripe in playing of this order.

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Gustav Leonhardt (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), Maggie Cole (Virgin), Andreas Staier (DHM) and Richard Egarr (EMI) offer more settled accounts of the Concerto, but in the other pieces Carolan’s graceful gestures, sometimes a shade understated, amount to a persuasive interpretation. Nicholas Anderson