May 2007

Bach - Harpsichord Concertos Vol. 2
(BWV 1055 in A; BWV 1056 in f minor; BWV 1057 in F; BWV 1058 in g minor)
Lars Ulrik Mortensen, harpsichord and director; Concerto Copenhagen
CPO 777 248-2
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ****1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****1/2

If a disc ever deserved to be subtitled "The Joy of Bach," it is this one. Seldom have I listened to a recording that gave me such pure, boundless pleasure.

In 1729, Bach had taken over the leadership of Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum, an organization founded by Georg Philipp Telemann. The group played a concert every week, and Bach was forced to turn to some of his early music and transcribe it for harpsichord and strings. The concerts brought huge fame to Bach and helped to make his name known throughout Europe.

Listeners will recognize the F major concerto as another version of the fourth Brandenburg concerto. But in comparing them, one can hear that though Bach retained the two recorders in addition to strings, he completely rewrote the harpsichord part to make it for a solo instrument. Lars Urik Mortensen plays with vim, vigor, and virtuosity. The string players of the small chamber orchestra phrase crisply, which helps to give the overall sound buoyancy. The slow movement of the F minor concerto is sublime; the rapid movements of all the concertos are exhilarating.

These near-perfect performances are recorded in sound that is close and has amazing presence. It never turns brittle, and although there is a fair amount of reverb, clarity is A+. This is Vol. 2, and that means if you enjoy it as thoroughly as I did, you will be seeking out Vol. 1.