J.S. BACH: Four Concertos for Harpsichords and Orchestra = Concerto in C Minor for 2 Harpsichords; Concerto in D Minor for 3 Harpsichords; Concerto in C Major for 3 Harpsichords; Concerto in A Minor for 4 Harpsichords – Fritz Neumeyer/Lily Berger/Konrad Burr/Ilse Urbuteit, harpsichords/Chamber Orchestra of the Saar/Karl Ristenpart
HDTT HDCD209, 65:14 [avail. in diff. formats at www.highdeftapetransfers.com] ****:
Transferred from a 1965 Nonesuch LP, having been recorded by Club Francais du Disque, this happy collation of multiple-klavier concertos by Bach reminded me of my old LP days, when the Nonesuch label offered such appetizers as “Music for the King’s Supper” and other musical repasts. Upgraded acoustically using the Lynx AES16 from the analog originals, the sound brings us a panorama of Bach’s essentially antiphonal approach to concerto writing, the paired or collective instruments’ serving as a continuo to the orchestral tuttis, the ripieno. The C Minor Concerto for Two Klaviers will resonate immediately, since we know entirely through its realization as the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043, whose sonority softens and sweetens the lacy fabric of two harpsichords. Scholars speculate that the multiple-keyboard works found their way into Bach’s own household, c. 1733-1735, where sons C.P.E. Bach and W.F. Bach and student Johann Ludwig Krebs could collaborate with the Master.
The grand emcee here is conductor Karl Ristenpart (1900-1967), a veteran of Bach cycles, especially in cantatas, and a fine builder of chamber ensembles. When Ristenpart created the Saar Chamber Orchestra in 1953, he began inviting soloists like Jean-Pierre Rampal to join for repertory that ranged from Vivaldi, Telemann, and Bach to the moderns Hindemith, Roussel, and Britten. The increasing scale of the Bach concertos in this CD finds Ristenpart perfectly capable of delineating each of the melodic threads without interrupting the often mesmerizing rhythmic propulsion of any movement, all the part dancing in cosmic harmony. Whether or not Bach adapted these works from melody-instrument originals remains speculative as well, but the oeuvre as it has come down to us proves animated, engaging, and sonically satisfying under such facile and balanced leadership. The hour passes much too quickly for my taste.
— Gary Lemco