JS Bach

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Suite in C minor, BWV 997; Sonata in D minor, BWV 964; Chaconne from Partita No. 2, BWV 1004 (arr. Brahms); Partita for Flute in A minor, BWV 1013(arr. Delplace); Italian Concerto, BWV 971; Adagio in G, BWV 968
PERFORMER: Jean Rondeau (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564622009


Don’t be fooled by the debonair photographs. He might look as if he’s gone through a wind tunnel. And he’s avowedly out to shake the Baroque world up a little. But Jean Rondeau isn’t intent on doing for the harpsichord what the flamboyant Cameron Carpenter has done for the organ. Still in his early twenties, the sometime first prizewinner of the Bruges International Harpsichord Competition carries a sage head on his new-kid-on-the-block shoulders.
Even the programming of this all-Bach debut disc catches the eye. With one exception – the Italian Concerto – all the works are transcriptions, and even the Concerto is an imaginary ‘transcription’ of sorts. Counter-intuitively, Brahms’s piano left hand arrangement of the great solo violin Chaconne proves to be one of the most ear-opening experiences of all. Lacking a sustaining pedal, Rondeau deploys both hands, but that’s beside the point. Not only is the trajectory utterly sure-footed; he can also generate palpable excitement without resorting to empty bravado. Indeed the Italian Concerto’s concluding Presto sounds positively measured until you realise just how much detail is registering as a consequence.

In the mould of fellow harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, Rondeau is a natural communicator, unimpeded by the imperative to score academic points. Both are fundamentally lyrical players. Both radiate delight. Just occasionally Rondeau over-eggs the expressivity. The Prelude of the Suite BWV 997 sounds distinctly fey with its languidly drooping phrases, but predominantly the contrapuntal clarity and effortless fluency is addictive – and a sonorous, beautifully recorded German-style harpsichord gilds the package. Make no mistake – this is an auspicious debut.


Paul Riley