COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: London Independent Records
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Clavier-Übung, Parts 1 & 2 – Overture in French Style, Italian Concerto, 6 Partitas, BWV 825-830 etc; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903
PERFORMER: Elizabeth de la Porte (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: LIR 012 ADD Reissue (1973/75)
Seasoned collectors may remember at least some of the recordings by Elizabeth de la Porte gathered together here for the first time.
The Italian Concerto, the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and the Overture (Partita) in the French Style were issued on the Saga label in the mid 1970s, while the remainder of the programme was released on Hyperion in the early 1980s.
De la Porte’s performances were warmly received at the time and remain impressive both for their technical fluency and natural musicality. But much has evolved in the sound of harpsichords over
the past quarter of a century, and
the copy by Feldberg of a French 18th-century instrument which de la Porte uses for the Concerto, the Overture and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue sounds dated beside the Taskin copy by Michael Johnson on which she plays the six Partitas (BWV 825-830). Furthermore, this instrument can sound hard on occasion, not least, for instance, in the Prelude and Gigue of the B flat Partita.
Since the initial release of these recordings, the performing arena has become densely populated with rival versions by Andreas Staier (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), Masaaki Suzuki (BIS), Trevor Pinnock (Hänssler), Lucy Carolan (Signum), Christophe Rousset (Decca) and others, too. Like Suzuki, de la Porte engages spontaneously in a degree of ornamental freedom which is stylistically apposite even if, as in the Allemande and Courante of the B flat Partita, it hardly seems necessary. Where de la Porte is at her most beguiling is when she allows herself a modicum of rhythmic relaxation, as in the Andante of the stylistically eclectic Sinfonia of the C minor Partita, thereby introducing a reflective element that highlights the music’s poetry; but it is to Trevor Pinnock that I would turn to savour more consistently the rhythmic suppleness and playful vivacity of the Partitas. No lover of this music, though, should overlook the live recording by pianist Dinu Lipatti
of the First Partita, made at the 1950 Besançon Festival just a matter of weeks before he died at the age of 33. Nicholas Anderson