WORKS: Harpsichord Concerto in E, BWV 1053; Harpsichord Concerto in A, BWV 1055; Harpsichord Concerto in G minor, BWV 1058; Violin Concerto in A minor, BWV 1041
PERFORMER: Christophe Rousset (harpsichord)Jaap Schröder (violin)Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
CATALOGUE NO: 443 326-2 DDD
Christoph Wolff, Christophe Rousset and Christopher Hogwood collaborate in three Bach harpsichord concertos. Professor Wolff writes splendid booklet notes, Rousset deftly plays two harpsichords and Hogwood provides accompaniments resembling the curateegg: good in parts.
Bach wrote these works in the 1730s for students to play in Zimmerman’s coffee house in the Cather-Strasse, Leipzig, 8-10pm on Friday evenings. We aren’t told this, but it’s very, very important. You see, once the two-manual monster had been hoisted in and the audience supplied with black brew there was just enough room left for a string quartet. You could actually hear the soloist. But not now, for he’s drowned out by Hogwood’s ten-piece band. Rousset carries on charismatically till concord, in the G minor finale, is threatened by Concorde, and Bach’s semiquavers get the wind in their tails.
A pity this, for the fourth work, the Violin Concerto in A minor (which corresponds musically to the harpsichord arrangement in G minor, BWV 1058) was recorded most artistically by Jaap Schröder 14 years ago in Kingsway Hall. The other concertos were done in two different studios, making three in all; and none of them sounds like a coffee house.
Not, alas, a particularly authentic disc then, despite claims to the contrary. The vacillating band gives us various choices of 15 violins, four violas and six bass instruments. As to performance, a persuasively played ostinato in the Andante of the violin version yields unhappily to the later keyboard version, which for me suggests a worm tentatively showing its head only to be regularly crushed by an outsize Pythonesque boot.
The disc was a good idea, the players are excellent, but there’s something awry with the aura. Denis Stevens