Concertos for 2 Harpsichords, BWV 1060-62; Prelude & Fugue in E flat, BWV552
Olivier Fortin, Emmanuel Frankenberg (harpsichord); Ensemble Masques
Alpha Classics ALPHA 572 59:46 mins The three Concertos for two harpsichords and strings probably date from the early 1730s when Bach had recently become director of the partly student, partly professional Collegium Musicum
at Leipzig. They may well have been included in the Collegium’s concert programmes, perhaps featuring Bach’s two elder sons as soloists.
The two D minor Concertos are arrangements of earlier works for violin and oboe, BWV 1060, and for two violins, BWV 1062. The C major Concerto, BWV 1061, by contrast seems to be an entirely original work, almost certainly intended by Bach initially as a duo for two harpsichords without strings.
Olivier Fortin, Emmanuel Frankenburg and Ensemble Masques give warm-blooded performances of the music. Their approach is stylish in matters of ornament and articulation, and the pervasive fugal content is argued clearly and authoritatively. Each concerto possesses a notably lyrical middle movement and the poetry of each of these is alluringly realised by all concerned. It is, though, the concluding movements which fare best of all. The musicians inject an infectious rhythmic energy into them, while preserving a pellucid linear clarity which highlights those strands of the score too often treated as mere filling.
The remaining item on the menu is a translation for two solo harpsichords of the resplendent organ Prelude and Fugue in E flat which frame the remaining contents of Part Three (1739) of Bach’s Clavier-übung. I found myself longing for the regal radiance of an organ in the Prelude, but the fivepart fugue is rewarding for the light which the harpsichords shed on the counterpoint. Nicholas Anderson PERFORMANCE ★★★★ RECORDING ★★★★