Johann Sebastian Bach - Harpsichord Concertos - Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)


Here is something that is not often recorded. And of the versions recorded, this is by far the best. I think you can tell I liked it! A combination of a greatly sensitive performer, and a well conceived and built instrument to match the structure and sonorities of the music. The recording is well balanced between being there and being inside the harpsichord! I mean it sounds very close to first row in a not too large drawing room. Intimate and still captivating in it's intensity. A good compromise between a close microphone approach and too much room reverberation that plagues so many harpsichord recordings.

What these are in a nutshell are transcriptions Johann Sebastian Bach made for his patron during his early days at Weimar. It allowed one performer to mimic the ideas behind the orchestral scores the transcriptions represented. To play such pieces on a keyboard instrument requires an understanding of what the music sounds like in full score, and by the instrumental complement called for in the real version. The reduction can be quite interesting. The compromises are where the performer has to do the most work. One person has to understand the limits and abilities of the instrument to get the most out of it.

Elizabeth Farr has the technical ability and the musical sensibility to perform these pieces at a level unattained in any recordings I have listened to up to this point. The instrument used is part of the reason I rate this recording so highly. It's not the old nasal plincky ( hold your nose closed when you say plincky and you will get the idea! ) sounding harpsichord that we hear all too often. No, I would put it like this. Your moving up from a cheap upright piano to a proper concert grand. There is no comparison. What Keith Hill has compiled and nurtured in this instrument is downright wonderful to listen to. The addition of the 16 foot register adds the oomph that is so lacking in any other recording I have listened to. The combination of the effects available and the artful use of them in solo and tutti passages in the score, makes this a landmark recording to be learned from by future performers for years to come. You can hear the areas where a solo is taking place in the original score. The passages where we have an effect of ensemble against solo are well played and artfully registered. If you have ever had any interest in this time period in Bach's early career while in Weimar, this is the set of discs in my opinion, with which to judge all others.

Mark Kravchenko