JS Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in D minor; Harpsichord Concerto in E; Harpsichord Concerto in D, BWV 1052. 1053, 1054 (Vol. 1)

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: EMI Reflexe
WORKS: Harpsichord Concerto in D minor; Harpsichord Concerto in E; Harpsichord Concerto in D, BWV 1052. 1053, 1054 (Vol. 1)
PERFORMER: Bob van Asperen (harpsichord/director); Melante Amsterdam
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54478 2 DDD
These Bach concertos were among the first in the genre to assign the solo part to a keyboard instrument. Bach wrote many such pieces in the 1730s, in each case rearranging for harpsichord a concerto he had previously written for a string or wind instrument. Many of the original works are now lost and survive only in their harpsichord versions; one exception is this disc’s D major Concerto, which derives from the popular Violin Concerto in E (BWV 1042).

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Transcriptions they may be but these concertos are enthralling pieces in their own right: the E major tender and vivacious, the D minor full of passionate intensity, the D major brilliantly expressive. Bob van Asperen has already recorded several acclaimed albums of Bach’s solo harpsichord music. Here he plays with characteristic flair, well supported by the five-piece Melante Amsterdam. Their main competition is Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert (on Archiv), whose larger forces and more forward harpsichord lend the music an impressive sense of drama. Van Asperen’s small group is fleet and buoyant and his instrument is closely integrated with the ensemble to produce a smooth, flowing, more chamber-like performance. It’s largely a matter of personal taste, but I’ll plump for the Van Asperen. Graham Lock