Bach, Scarlatti, Handel

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach,Handel,Scarlatti
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Italian Concerto, BWV 971; French Suite No. 5 in G, BWV 816
PERFORMER: Laurence Cummings (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554724
Beware the misleading title of this disc, ‘The Art of the Baroque Harpsichord’. The ‘Art…’ is limited to that of three composers and the nearest it gets to the French contribution is a Bach suite. Nor do booklet notes give any information, beyond the names of the modern harpsichord-maker and his 18th-century model, about the instrument’s specification, tonal character, place in the wider scheme of things, or the interpretative implications of harpsichord technique. On the positive side is clean, thoughtful and tasteful playing of three large-scale works, separated by two pairs of Scarlatti sonatas. The recorded perspective is nicely judged, the listener several feet away from the harpsichord rather than (as so often) under its lid.

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Particularly impressive is the slow movement of the Italian Concerto. Cummings spreads with great subtlety the potentially dogged accompanying chords which dominate all but three of the 49 bars. The Bach suite (thankfully with all its repeats intact) is full of taut, dancing rhythms, if a little relentless at the ends of fast movements. But Cummings can be passionately rhapsodic, as he demonstrates approaching the final slow section of the Handel ‘Ouverture’.

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If hardly a comprehensive revelation of the instrument, this is a warmly recommended recital of three of its major composers. George Pratt