J.S. BACH: Cembalo Concertos = BWV 1052 in D minor; BWV 1053 in E Major; BWV 1056 in F minor; BWV 1054 in D Major – Francesco Cera, harpsichord/I Barocchisti/ Diego Fasolis – Arts Multichannel SACD 47729-8, 68:15 ***** [Distr. by Albany]:
We raved previously about this ensemble in the Six Brandenburg Concertos and many of those comments could apply to this quartet of harpsichord concertos, recorded at the auditorium of the Italian-Swiss Radio in Lugano, Switzerland. As Gary Lemco reported on that earlier effort, this is a disc for the Bach audiophile. Since the Concerto No. 5 of the Brandenburgs may have been the first true harpsichord concerto, there is a further connection between that recording and this one. One difference is that the group’s director Diego Fasolis was the soloist in that concerto but for this disc Francesco Cera – one of Italy’s leading early music specialist – was retained.
I’m a believer in the need to perform most works originally written for the harpsichord on that instrument rather than on the modern piano. In fact, I can’t think of any early keyboard concertos for which performance on the instrument for which they were written is more important than the Bach concertos. The D minor is perhaps the most famous and the longest of these four. It has not only been performed and recorded frequently, but sometimes with a nearly full orchestra that tended to drown out the rather meek voice of harpsichords that are accurate copies of historical instruments. The “Baroquists” are a smaller chamber-size aggregation and the two instruments used here are well-balanced with the other players. However, the micing has resulted in another 30-foot-wide instrument, which takes some getting used to. The sharp transients of the harpsichord compared to the piano make the super-wide soundstage even more emphasized.
It is thought the four concertos were written and performed in 1738 at the Collegium Musicum – the secular concert series that provided that half of Bach’s busy life in music. He was able to turn them out more quickly due to most of the movements of the concertos being parodies of some of his other compositions. The D minor concerto uses material from two of his cantatas, opening with almost the same opening to the Cantata BWV 146, except that the dramatic solo part for the Cantata is played on the organ. Other movements are adaptations of those taken from previous violin concertos, giving a fleshed-out version of the solo violin part to the harpsichord.
– John Sunier