J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Complete Harpsichord Concertos

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Christophe Rousset
Accompaniment/Orchestra:The Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
Soloists:Simon Standage, violin (BWV 1044)
Rachel Brown, flute (BWV 1044)
Rachel Beckett, recorder (BWV 1057)
Marion Scott, recorder (BWV 1057)
Individual Works:Harpsichord concerto in D minor, BWV 1052
Harpsichord concerto in F major, BWV 1057
Harpsichord concerto in G minor, BWV 1058
Harpsichord concerto in D major, BWV 1054
Harpsichord concerto in E major, BWV 1053
Harpsichord concerto in F minor, BWV 1056
Harpsichord concerto in A major, BWV 1055
Concerto for harpsichord, flute and violin in A minor, BWV 1044
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Decca/L'oiseau-lyre
Catalog Number:460 031-2
Year Released/Recorded:1993/4/5
Total Playing Time:128.38
Comments:Alastair Evans said:

Christophe Rousset's recordings of the complete solo harpsichord concertos with Christophe Hogwood directing the Acadmemy of Ancient Music (and the triple concerto with prominent harpsichord BWV 1044). Rousset's playing is always virtuosic and becomes quite furious in places. He likes using staccato accents; this usually works quite well, but is not effective in the big chords of BWV 1057. The harpsichords he uses are designed after German moderls of Bach's time. The sound of the harpsichord generally stands out well above the orchestra, even too much at times where it almost drowns out the sound of the flutes in BWV 1057. The harpsichord he uses in most of the recordings has an exceptionally fine sounding high register, but is not so good in the bass, which lacks depth of sound as well as not equalling it in volume.
The tempos used in this recording are all generally very fast, suiting Rousset's furious playing well. In last movements of BWV 1058, 1055 and 1053, this works very well to give spectacularly energetic performances, suiting the music excellently. The very fast scales of the first movement of BWV 1057 are also played flawlessly and sound wonderful, but the fast tempo used for the last movement slows down ridiculously when he comes to the fast arpeggios there, which are too difficult for even him to play at the speed he chooses. The first movement of BWV 1052 is very well articulated to give an uncommonly effective performance. A few of the slow movements suffer from the fast tempos, especially the 'adagio e piano sempre' of BWV 1054, which is neither adagio nor piano. The slow movement in BWV 1058 works OK in its division of staccato in the tutti and legato in the solo sections; I did not find it jarring. A point in which Rousset's playing is jarring throughout is in long trills, where he tends to wind up from slow-to-fast trills very slowly, which sounds awful to me. He is perfectly capable of doing excellent fast trills when required, so there is no excuse for this.
Christopher Hogwood plays continuo harpsichord on BWV 1055 (which has been found in a version with a figured bass) and BWV 1058 (which has not). This works OK, but generally does not make much difference to the sound of the concertos, only making them slightly more percussive. It is difficult to see any musical reason for doing this practice much in performances, especially as the solo harpsichord often takes on a quasi-continuo role itself - its existence in the original sounrce probably just reflects a common adaptation to the performers available at the time.
The orchestral sound is good, as are the other soloists.
As with all Rousset's recordings, this is very much recommended for its many moments of brilliance and excellent playing, but it still has many areas with poor judgement, or taste, which could certainly be better.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Alastair Evans
Date First Submitted:04/10/2006