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In 1908 Albert Schweitzer dismissed Bach's solo harpsichord concertos as ‘often made with quite incredible haste and carelessness’, perhaps swayed by the old prejudice that transcriptions, being ‘copies’, were of little intrinsic worth.

Today, thanks to Werner Breig’s analysis of the autograph, we know Bach took extraordinary pains with the transcriptions, completely rewriting the harpsichord part in several places. We also value the concertos, both aesthetically, for their many delights, and historically, as the first notable examples of the keyboard concerto, a genre Bach virtually invented with these works.

Andreas Staier and the Freiburger Barockorchester bring a correspondingly serious creativity to their performances: they imbue fast movements with a purposeful yet buoyant swing and keep the delicately sketched slow movements taut and focused. Staier plays his favourite harpsichord, a modern copy of a 1734 Hass, a large, sonorous instrument with a 16’ stop and a rich array of timbres, full- sounding yet never heavy. He adds attractive cadenzas to the D major, G minor and F minor concertos and his ornamentation throughout is inventively apposite. The flutes in BWV 1057 are a little hazy, otherwise the recorded sound is excellent, judiciously balancing harpsichord and orchestra in their exhilarating and joyous exchanges.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing