JS Bach: Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue

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LABELS: Paradizo
WORKS: Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue; Toccata in D; English Suite in A minor; Italian Concerto; Three Little Preludes; Partita in B flat
PERFORMER: Wanda Landowska (harpsichord)

As Skip Sempé writes in his informative liner notes, the Baroque performance movement founded by Wanda Landowska ‘is still regarded as one of the most influential forces on musical interpretation and performance practice of our time’. Of course, these things don’t stand still, and today’s purists may quibble at the 16′ bass additions, the huge, instantaneous variation between soft and loud stops, and the large ritardandos that herald some of the cadences.
There are times too, as in the Prelude of the A minor English Suite, when excitement gets the better of her pulse. But, speaking as a non-specialist, I would say that one of the main contributions Landowska made to Baroque music was to insist that it must never be boring. This whole disc breathes not merely authority, but vitality, through her crisp articulation and energetic phrasing. She may have called her concert hall ‘the temple of ancient music’, but dedication and respect are bonded with drama and joy.
In the Chromatic Fantasia we are shown a link between Frescobaldi and Bach’s own son CPE: exuberant wildness in detail is subject to overall iron control. The digital remastering (by Seth B Winner Sound Studios Inc.) of Fred Gaisberg’s original discs is superb, and the accompanying DVD-Rom contains a number of fascinating photos and documents. Roger Nichols