COMPOSERS: WF Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Harpsichord Concerto in F; Harpsichord Concerto in A minor; Harpsichord Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Richard Egarr (harpsichord)London Baroque
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901558 DDD
JS Bach’s first son, Wilhelm Friedemann, wrote in capriciously contrasting styles. These concertos, however, are rooted firmly in the Sturm und Drang of the Enlightenment – stormy repeated notes, passionate, sighing melodies.
Egarr makes fine sense of Bach’s pianistic writing for the harpsichord, figures sweeping freely across the whole compass. The London Baroque strings play neatly, without lifting some patches of stereotyped music beyond the prosaic. There are some memorable moments, though: in the A minor’s first movement, a long, dreamy suspension hovers in the air, glittering with harpsichord triplets; the F major’s finale contains some infectious rhythmic quirks.
A minimal booklet doesn’t explain the thinking behind one-to-a-part strings; Bach certainly had access to many more, in Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin, all possible venues. The recording balance rather favours them, as if trying to create a chamber orchestra from the quartet. Although, with six concertos extant, another could have made this 54-minute disc more appealing, it is a welcome glimpse of the transitional, but by no means transitory delights between the close of one era and the full flowering of the next. George Pratt