In the world of classical-music recordings, the works of J.S. Bach naturally have overshadowed those of the "other" Bachs - the great composer's sons and ancestors. Yet as this CD demonstrates, there is considerable, beauty, originality and power in those too-neglected works. Charles Medlam, the well established interpreter of Baroque music, and his London Baroque ensemble are joined here by harpsichordist Richard Egarr in a demonstration that J.S.'s son Wilhelm Friedemann was in his own right an exceptional composer with a firm understanding of both his father's Baroque-synthesizing insights into musical structure and the new demands of the emerging Classical period in composition. This generally well-produced recording of three clavier concertos by J.S.'s oldest son sparkles with a blend of the old and the new - hints, and sometimes strong ones, of his father's musical approaches combined with treatments evocative of Haydn and the younger Mozart (whom it is said was taught briefly by one or more of the Bach boys). The performance stands as worthy of listening in its own right. And for those as yet unfamiliar with the output of Bach's more talented offspring, W.F. and Carl Philipp Emanual, it is an excellent introduction to a too-often bypassed corner of musical satisfaction.
This is a really great five-CD set. You get all of Bach's concertos except the Brandenburgs - which is a shame because Pinnock's Brandenburgs are terrific. Nonetheless, this remains an absolutely cracking collection of some of Bach's most enjoyable music in excellent performances. In the Harpsichord Concertos Pinnock is himself the soloist and shows why he is such a very well-liked and highly regarded musician. The music springs to life under his fingers (and under his direction) and many of these performances set new and enduring standards when first released in the early 1980s. They have informed much subsequent Bach playing and have worn extremely well themselves, sounding as fresh and involving as they did nearly 30 years ago. He is joined by other fine harpsichordists in the concerti for two, three and four harpsichords, (Kenneth Gilbert, Nicholas Kraemer and Lars Ulrich Mortensen) and the Concerto for Four Harpsichords in particular is an absolute joy.
Listeners familiar with other recordings in Masaaki Suzuki's ongoing traversal of Bach's solo keyboard works may find his performances of the Partitas somewhat of an anomaly. For instance, the sharply delineated juxtapositions of tempos that made his Fantasias and Fugues program so thrilling (type Q3840 in Search Reviews) are nowhere to be heard here. The interpretive agenda this time is much subtler and decidedly more introverted.