WORKS: French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 814, 815, 816, 817; 15 two-part Inventions BWV 772, 773, 774, 775, 776, 777, 778, 779, 780, 781, 782, 783, 784, 785, 786; Six Little Preludes BWV 933, 934, 935, 936, 937, 938
PERFORMER: Joseph Payne (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-589/590 DDD
No one can complain about short measure on these two CDs, part of an ongoing project to record all Bach’s keyboard music. We are offered not only the six French Suites with every repeat, but the 15 Two-Part Inventions and the Six Little Preludes as well.
Payne, British-born but American-based since 1965, was one of the last pupils of Wanda Landowska, whose reissued recordings act as stern warnings to all would-be harpsichordists. Her ‘grand manner’ certainly shows in Payne’s preference for rich sonorities (including an over-indulgent use of the lute stop) and measured tempos, even if his two chosen instruments are more modest in scale and decidedly more authentic than the monstrous anachronisms Landowska herself favoured.
On the whole his playing is very competent, a little too spartan in his application of ornamentation, perhaps, and rather sober and literal in phrasing, obscuring a sense of larger perspectives, especially in the slower dances. Readings like this may force us to concentrate on the purity of the music, but I would have preferred a little more emotional involvement. Antony Bye