Following the fine critical praise for his pioneering recording of the complete Harpsichord Suites of G.F. Handel, Gilbert Rowland moves to the lesser known but equally inspired Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) who composed these suites in 1714. Although generally following the then current Dance Suite format used so much by Bach, Handel and others, Mattheson created variety with different dances (such as the Tocatine) and varying numbers of movements. Certainly very musical and original, these Suites deserve to be considered on a level with those of Handel at the very least. Masterful performances by Gilbert Rowland who plays a 2-manual French-style instruments by Andrew Wooderson (2005) after an original from 1750 by Goemans.
Recorded in 1987, this disc by Belgian conductor Philippe Herreweghe and the choral-instrumental ensemble La Chapelle Royale came in advance of most of the historical-performance recordings that have delved deeply into Bach's cantatas and their world. It was, in fact, the first digital recording of the Trauerode, BWV 198. Despite some competition, this remains an exemplary Bach performance, and it was a superb candidate for reissue in Harmonia Mundi's HM Gold greatest-hits series.
According to German theological tradition, which Bach knew very well, the alto voice was the very symbol of the Holy Ghost. Bach's three solo cantatas for alto demand enormous vocal virtuosity. Their extraordinary musical variety embraces sublime consolatory lullabies, a faithful echo of an organ concerto and the dramatic qualities of an oratorio. Andreas Scholl is the featured soloist in this reissue, backed by Philippe Herreweghe and the Collegium Vocale Gent.
With the possible exception of Richard Pinhas' Heldon, Gilbert Artman's Lard Free was probably the premier French progressive group of the '70s. The prolific Heldon might win in terms of amount of material, but the three near-perfect albums by Lard Free (despite the truly wretched band name) probably have them beat in terms of overall quality. Although Artman, a drummer who also dabbles in synthesizers and piano, called Lard Free a group, he was the only constant member; all three albums have different lineups. 1973's Lard Free consists of relatively short pieces with prominent piano and saxophone parts, and as such is the most jazz-oriented of the three. The following year's I'm Around About Midnight consists of three long pieces with much more synthesizer; at times, it sounds almost like early (pre-ambient) Tangerine Dream, or perhaps Clear Light, the French collective Artman and the then-current lineup of Lard Free occasionally worked with around this time. 1977's Lard Free III, also known as Spirale Malax, is Artman's best work, a pair of side-long experiments that combine space music, jazz, and King Crimson-style heavy progressive rock better than many groups (including King Crimson) could ever hope to manage.
This is a superb recording of the Two-Part and Sinfonias (Three-Part Inventions) of Johann Sebastian Bach. Kenneth Gilbert is a wonderful interpreter of Bach's keyboard music and in this recording plays an instrument made in 1671 by Jan Couchet that was subsequently enlarged in 1778. The Two-Part Inventions and Sinfonias consist of 15 parts; they were written as technical exercises and as composition demonstration pieces originally for his son Wilhelm Friedemann. The various pieces were probably written separately and were gathered together by Bach in major/minor key sequence and published in 1723. The recording is clear and well balanced. Kenneth Gilbert plays beautifully; the music is lively without being ostentatious.
The Art of Fugue or 'complete practical fugal work', as C. P. E. Bach described his father's giant contrapuntal achievement, is well represented in the current recording catalogue. The approaches to it vary considerably with performances on solo keyboard—harpsichord and organ—and mixed ensembles with markedly different shades of instrument colour. Varied too, is the sequence in which the performers play the fugal parts which comprise the whole. Some complete the final fugue, some do not; some find a place for all the pieces included in the posthumous original edition of 1751, others have given reasons for omitting those which seem not to play a directly relevant part in Bach's scheme. Kenneth Gilbert leads us down another fascinating path his performance on a solo harpsichord follows not the 1751 printed edition but Bach's own autograph material differing from the other both in content and layout.
In a way, this is the best possible version of the WTC to someone who is looking for a balanced, deep and totally honest version. The harpsichord is a beautiful Flemish-French (recent research shows it is rather more French than Flemish) harpsichord (Gilbert's own) that has a marvelous sound: rich and deep, and yet bright and clear. Professor Gilbert's version is as new now as it was when it was released. It is totally respectful of the music (you won't find eccentricities, here, just the music but superlatively played). He has a very cantabile sense of the music - every voice is respected - and his Bach is phrased almost as a dance, rather than as gesturing. He seems to belie Leonhardt, when the Dutch says that the piano was meant to sing and the harpsichord to speak; in Gilbert's hands, it really sings). Do not expect strong chords, abrupt contrasts or anything like that. Gilbert's version is for the connoisseur rather than the Fireworks enthusiast. If you examine, in detail, the way he plays, you will find that every voice is subtly sung, that the amount of work and serious thought he lavished into Bach's music is prodigious.