Bach: Italian Concerto in F, BWV 971; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903; Aria variata, BWV 989,

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Italian Concerto in F, BWV 971; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903; Aria variata, BWV 989,
PERFORMER: Terence Charlston (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1017
Terence Charlston’s harpsichord recital features two of Bach’s most popular keyboard works, the Italian Concerto (BWV 971) and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (BWV 903), together with a motley selection of mostly early pieces. Notable among these are the improvisatory Toccata in D (BWV 912) and the Aria variata (BWV 989), an intriguing theme-and-variations set that stands as a youthful, less ambitious precursor to the Goldberg Variations. The lovely ‘Goldberg’ aria itself is here too, as are the Prelude in C minor (BWV 999), originally written for lute, the Prelude and Fughetta in G major (BWV 902) and the brief, glorious Fantasia in C minor (BWV 906).

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Charlston, a member of London Baroque, is a sensitive, judicious player, though a touch diffident at times and prone to slight rhythmic hesitancies. Certainly I prefer Gustav Leonhardt’s characteristically bold account of the D major Toccata and Christophe Rousset’s pacy, ebullient version of the Italian Concerto. Rousset perhaps takes the beautiful Andante movement too swiftly, but Charlston undermines his own more measured approach by allowing Bach’s insistent two-note bass motif to become naggingly intrusive. I also prefer Rousset’s flowing, mercurial Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue; Charlston, though powerfully expressive, seems a shade too deliberate in comparison. But the disc is valuable for his fine performance of the rarely heard Aria variata, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sparkling serenity of his ‘Goldberg’ aria and his disciplined yet exuberant reading of the Fantasia in C minor. Graham Lock