The violin concertos here are not the familiar pair in A minor and E. Bach composed a number of concertos for orchestral instruments and later transcribed them as keyboard concertos. Reversing Bach’s procedure, Wilfried Fischer has taken the harpsichord versions and from them has reconstructed the originals. BWV 1056 is a transposed transcription of the Keyboard Concerto in F minor (though New Grove identifies the outer movements as being from a lost oboe concerto). The D minor work is also usually heard in its keyboard adaptation. The concerto in C minor for two harpsichords appears in its original instrumentation for violin and oboe, the soloists here being perfectly balanced for clarity of line. It was Tovey who suggested that the A major concerto may have been intended for the oboe d’amore, an instrument pitched between the oboe proper and the cor anglais.
Coming in at a tidy three hours and eight minutes, Donizetti’s huge Les Martyrs, composed (or adapted) for Paris in 1840, is here presented in its fullest conceivable form, including ballet and many passages cut right after the first performances. The opera was a reworking of his 1838 Poliuto, composed for the San Carlo in Naples, which had been banned by the king himself, since Christian martyrdom under the Romans was found unpleasant by the censors and the king was devoutly religious.
Recorded between 1972 and 1976, The Golden Age of French Organ Music is one of the most comprehensive anthologies ever dedicated to the instrument. On it Andre Isoir surveys music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a period in which the French organ school matured in the service of the Roman Catholic Church.