Bach: Keyboard Concertos, BWV 1052, 1052, 1054, 1055, 1056, 1057, 1058; Triple Concerto, BWV 1044

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LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Keyboard Concertos, BWV 1052, 1052, 1054, 1055, 1056, 1057, 1058; Triple Concerto, BWV 1044
PERFORMER: Richard Egarr (harpsichord), Rachel Brown (flute); Academy of Ancient Music/Andrew Manze (violin)
Enthusiasts for Bach’s seven concertos for harpsichord with string ensemble will find themselves confronted at the moment by a rich variety of recordings. They reflect commensurately diverse stylistic approaches, ranging from the solo instrument itself – harpsichord versus piano – to the strength of the string ensemble and issues concerning temperament and pitch. This new set is the second of two which feature the Academy of Ancient Music; the other, with harpsichordist Christophe Rousset, is directed by Christopher Hogwood, the founder of the ensemble (Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre). Readers who already have and enjoy Rousset’s survey need not feel any urgent need to invest in the Richard Egarr/Andrew Manze performances. For others, who do not have either, the choice is difficult. While I have found both of them stimulating and mainly satisfying, I have not wanted to be tied down by either. Generally speaking, Rousset prefers brisker tempos to Egarr, whose expansive view of the slow movement of the great D minor Concerto (BWV 1052) felt over-indulgent to me. I also prefer, in principle, Hogwood’s larger string band, though Manze’s leaner team has more sharply defined continuo playing – a constant pleasure. Both releases include the Triple Concerto in A minor with flautist Rachel Brown, who is partnered by Pauline Nobes in the new version and by Simon Standage in the earlier one. Perhaps, for uniform pleasure, Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert (DG Archiv) still head my league table, though intermittent delights are afforded by Gustav Leonhardt and his string Consort. But a very recent issue of the D minor Concerto with Raphael Alpermann and the Berlin Akademie für Alte Musik outclasses any other performance that I can recall. Nicholas Anderson