JS Bach: Italian Concerto, BWV 971

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Italian Concerto, BWV 971
PERFORMER: Masaaki Suzuki (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1469
The Italian Concerto and the French Overture in B minor were published together in 1735 to form the second part of Bach’s great keyboard anthology, the Clavier-Übung (Keyboard exercise). A third item in Masaaki Suzuki’s programme is a keyboard transcription, perhaps Bach’s own or that of a pupil, of the Sonata in A minor, BWV 1003, for unaccompanied violin. As in his recording of Bach’s harpsichord Partitas (reviewed February 2003), Suzuki’s measured declamation, linear clarity, together with tasteful responses to ornament, are among his greatest strengths. However his tendency towards deliberation detracts from the opening movement of the Italian Concerto where rival players, among them Trevor Pinnock and Olivier Baumont (Elatus/Warner), convey an exuberance which enliven the music no end.

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The many virtues of Suzuki’s musicianship, though, are brought to bear upon the B minor French suite, which is sustained throughout by elegant playing enhanced by his assured understanding and clear exposition of the musical dialogue. If Suzuki sometimes strikes a dispassionate note in his playing in contrast with, say, Gustav Leonhardt whose balance between learning and an inner fervour can be almost mesmerising (his Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recording, now deleted, is worth looking out for), Suzuki’s recital should nevertheless disappoint few if any listeners. Nicholas Anderson