Johann Sebastian Bach: Keyboard Concertos

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Orfeo
ALBUM TITLE: Johann Sebastian Bach
WORKS: Keyboard Concertos BMV 1052-1058
PERFORMER: Konstanti Lifschitz (piano)/Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: C828112A

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When a CD booklet essay is headed ‘At the End of the Thoroughbass Era’ you might fear something dry and academic on the disc. With Konstantin Lifschitz of course that’s not going to happen. Recordings of the Goldbergs, Art of Fugue, and Musical Offering have established his compelling Bachian credentials, and here he tackles the Keyboard Concertos, BWV 1052-58. There’s a novelty too. In the protean D minor Concerto he plays a third-movement cadenza by Brahms.

Lifschitz’s fleet-fingered articulation serves the fast music handsomely. The A major’s Allegro is captivatingly vivacious, the D major’s first movement is full of bounce and teasing playfulness, but, while details sparkle, the urgent forward momentum sometimes charges through corners, robbing paragraphs of a wider shapeliness. The end of the G minor is positively brusque. In slow movements Lifschitz has a rounded singing tone – the F minor’s Largo is ravishing, the D major’s Adagio is spaciously poetic – but again effortless eloquence isn’t always obtained: dense piano chords and the world-weary phrasing of the Stuttgarters often threaten to ground the A major’s Larghetto, while its dapper ‘galant’ finale remains earthbound too. A mixed bag perhaps, but still worth unpacking.

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Paul Riley