JS Bach: Harpsichord Concertos

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: L’OISEAU-LYRE
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Harpsichord Concertos, BWV 1052, 1053, 1055 & 1056
PERFORMER: Accademia Bizantina/Ottavio Dantone (harpsichord)
CATALOGUE NO: 475 9355

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Ottavio Dantone opts for the strictly one-instrument-to-a-part concept and in that respect his performances are comparable to Bob van Asperen’s with Melante Amsterdam (Virgin 561 7162). While I admire Dantone’s idiomatic playing, rhythmic pulse, expressive restraint and the textural lucidity of his approach, I find the general effect of the ensemble a little hard and unsympathetic. There is little in the way either of expressive charm or conversational intimacy here, such as one may find with Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen (on CPO). Compared to Mortensen’s blend of eloquent virtuosity and tasteful discretion, the playing of Accademia Bizantina seems hard and unyielding, though there are nevertheless moments of great beauty as, for instance, in the Siciliano of the E major Concerto (BWV 1053) where the sheer poetry of Bach’s music asserts its affective magic on all concerned. I found Dantone’s energetic responses to faster movements invigorating, though occasionally, as in the opening Allegro of the joyful A major Concerto (BWV 1055), they felt hard driven. It is unquestionably to Mortensen that I would turn to find the myriad subtleties in this music. Nicholas Anderson