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Bach: Keyboard Concertos 1-3 & 5 - Cera, Fasolis

Bach: Keyboard Concertos 1-3 & 5 - Cera, Fasolis

Arts Music  47729-8

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical


Bach: Cembalo Concertos BWV 1052, 1053, 1054 & 1056

Francesco Cera (harpsichord)
I Barocchisti
Diego Fasolis (conductor)

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Review by John Miller - November 30, 2008

Diego Fasolis and I Barochisti have gained a reputation for the vigour and drama of their interpretations of Baroque music. These characters certainly apply to this set of Bach's keyboard concertos with Francesco Cera. The small body of period string instruments, with a single cello and violone as continuo, play with great style and Italianate warmth. These concertos were written at the beginning of the evolution of the solo concerto form, well before soloist and orchestra became adversarial, and the Arts producer has recognised this in the disc's sound balance. The harpsichord is clearly integrated into the band, rather than being projected well forward as we have sadly come to expect from many other recordings. The result is a wonderful intimacy of dialogue between the instrumentalists. Cera and Fasolis are clearly at one in their approach to this music. They have established a sense of spontaneity which echoes the jam sessions put on by Bach and his Collegium for the tobacco smokers and coffee drinkers in the garden of Zimmerman's Coffee House during the 'white evenings' of the Leipzig Summer.

At least some of this music will be familiar to many listeners, for most of the concertos are parodies, or self-borrowings, from Bach earlier works. Thus material from Cantatas BWV 146 and BWV 145 appears in the D minor concerto, BWV 1052; Concertos BWV 1053 and 1056 originate in a lost oboe concerto and a lost violin concerto, and Concerto BWV 1054 is a downward transposition of the Violin concerto in E major, BWV 1042.

Francesco Cera has chosen a copy of a Ruckers harpsichord (with a C18th enlargement) for three of the concertos, and a 1769 Taskin copy for the E major concerto, BWV 1053. The Taskin particularly suits the Vivaldian elegance and sunny nature of this particular concerto.

Repeats are generously given, but the music never outstays its welcome, even in the moto perpetuo whirling notes of some of the ritornellos. A particular feature of this set is the beguiling characterisation of the slow movements. That of the D minor concerto is a soulful aria, touchingly expressive, accompanied by many sighs from the strings; the E major concerto has a flowing, zephyr-like elegant and courtly solo with violins cooing around it; the F minor has a slow movement which might have come straight out of Vivaldi's Four Seasons - an ineffable tune supported by plucked strings, and the D major concerto of course has an arrangement of the parent violin concerto's lament, made here into a small operatic scena.

The 24bit/96kHz recording is not only well balanced, but it captures the many textural and tonal changes on the strings which enliven these readings; there is earthy humour, cheekiness and graceful wit from the players, matched by Cera's colourful registrations and playing style. The venue, however, has rather more reverberance than these rather small-scale works merit, although there does not seem to be too much lost detail.

Informative insert notes in German, English and French are supplied, but the English translation sometimes has an amusing tendency to follow German syntax. It also confusingly uses the word 'concert' to mean both concerto and music-making.

Even if you have the award-winning Angela Hewitt's piano version of these concertos, I urge you to try this Arts disc; in many cases it seems like they are different works altogether.

Copyright © 2008 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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