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LABELS: Albany
ALBUM TITLE: Keyboard Works, Bk 2
WORKS: Suite in B minor; Suite in G minor; Suite in C; Suite in D minor; Partita in C; Partita in A minor
PERFORMER: Susan Alexander-Max (piano)
Surprisingly, this music is recorded complete here for the first time – it was so well-received in its day that it was reprinted in 1741. It contains four conventional suites – preludes followed by dance movements. They range from a sprightly C major Suite, full of dancing pulse, to a dark D minor Prelude heavy with Neapolitan harmonic sighs. Although written for ‘cimbalo’ (harpsichord), Susan Alexander-Max plays the pieces here on the restored Cristofori piano in the New York Metropolitan Museum, one of three extant instruments which their inventor himself called a ‘harpsichord with soft and loud’. Alexander-Max has clearly got to grips with its special demands, particularly its ability to articulate by dynamic accents as well as the minute delays and silences with which harpsichordists shape a phrase. She plays with the restraint demanded by such a delicate and complex mechanical action, and the sound is charming – warm and plummy in the middle and lower range, more sparkling on top. The upper register can become swamped by the riches lower down in loud passages – a characteristic of the instrument itself as much as of the recording – but the quiet contrasts are wholly endearing. A most imaginative combination of music and instrument, both revealed as far more than mere curiosities. George Pratt