J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Concertos for 1, 2, 3, & 4 Harpsichords and String Orchestra

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Antonio Janigro
Accompaniment/Orchestra:I Solisti di Zagreb
Soloists:Anton Heiller, harpsichord (soloist in BWV 1052, 1055, 1056
Cembalo I in BWV 1060-5)
Erna Heiller, harpsichord (Cembalo II in BWV 1060-5)
Kurt Rapf, harpsichord (Cembalo III in BWV 1063-5)
Christa Landon, harpsichord (Cembalo IV in BWV 1065)
Individual Works:CD 1:
Concerto no. 1 in D Minor for One Harpsichord, BWV 1052
Concerto no. 4 in A Major for One Harpsichord, BWV 1055
Concerto no. 5 in F Minor for One Harpsichord, BWV 1056
Concerto in C Minor for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1060
Concerto in C Major for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1061

CD 2:
Concerto in C Minor for Two Harpsichords, BWV 1062
Concerto in D Minor for Three Harpsichords, BWV 1063
Concerto in C Major for Three Harpsichords, BWV 1064
Concerto in A Minor for Four Harpsichords, BWV 1065
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:The Bach Guild (Artemis/Vanguard)
Catalog Number:ATM-CD-1249
Year Released/Recorded:1958, 1964
Total Playing Time:77:00, 56:05
Comments:Thomas Hubeart said:

This is another in a series of double-disc reissues of "Bach Guild" recordings by Artemis Records. However, it has a distinct advantage over the other reissues I have heard (i.e., the Felix Prohaska Orchestral Suites and Brandenburg Concertos) in being in stereo, deriving from recordings made originally in 1958 and 1964.

More significantly, this release features Anton Heiller at the harpsichord and the conducting of Antonio Janigro leading I Solisti di Zagreb. Both Heiller on harpsichord and organ and Janigro leading I Solisti appeared together and separately on many of Vanguard's recordings during that label's Golden Age (late 1950s-early 1970s). As a college student in the mid 1980s, I owned several Vanguard LPs by both artists, including one containing the recordings of BWV 1052, 1055, and 1056 presented here, so I do not pretend to complete objectivity about the merits of this performance.

As a rank partisan, then, I will say that Heiller is a superb soloist and that Janigro's accompaniment is appropriately sensitive throughout. This is very much a "state of the art" performance, musically speaking, of these three concertos at the time they were recorded (1958), and they are still thoroughly creditable in a way that some other contemporaneous recordings (e.g., Glenn Gould's) are not. Heiller does not quite match the panache or sparkle of Igor Kipnis, but he is not behind Kipnis by much in my view; in fact, the most compelling reason to prefer Kipnis' 1960s recordings of these works would not be due to musicianship but completeness, since Kipnis gives the canonical seven solo concerti as well as his own reconstruction of an eighth. It is hard to know why Heiller and Janigro apparently did not go on to record the other four complete solo concerti, unless it was because three of them are actually Bach's arrangements of works originally composed for other purposes (the two violin concertos and Brandenburg 4).

However, the soloist and the conductor did return to the studio in 1964 to record the concerti for 2 to 4 harpsichords, with the addition of Erna Heiller (Mrs. Anton Heiller), Kurt Rapf, and Christa Landon on the additional keyboards. These further recordings, unknown to me back when I cherished my Vanguard LP of the 3 solo concerti, came to my notice in connection with this reissue, and they are quite equal in quality to the earlier performances. The sound is very good and the details of which harpsichord is playing what generally stand quite clearly. My standard in recordings of the multiple-harpsichord concerti has long been Trevor Pinnock's excellent set, and even though Pinnock and his English Concert have the edge over Heiller and Janigro in historical awareness (which is understandable since Pinnock recorded these works nearly two decades after Heiller/Janigro), this reissue is no slouch. Indeed, Heiller and company actually made me enjoy BWV 1064--not generally one of my favorite Bach concerti--where Pinnock's troops did not.

The most detrimental thing I can say about this reissue concerns the liner notes, which are evidently lifted and assembled from the original LP issues but which are studded throughout with typographical errors, suggesting a combination of scanned text (for example, "clavicorns" for clavichords, "foru" for four, "patter" for pattern) and human negligence (such as the "F Minor Concerto" being referred to both as BWV 1055 and 1056). There is also a minor gaffe in the tracking of CD 2, in that the second and third movements of BWV 1065 are incorrectly divided (track 11 ends after measure 15 of the Largo, which then continues in track 12 along with the concluding Allegro).

It occurs to me that those wanting a modern instruments alternative to Pinnock, perhaps as a supplement to Kipnis' solo concerto set on Sony Classical, would find the Heiller/Janigro reissue very satisfying. In fact, I would highly recommend it to all Bach lovers--even those who do not share my fond memories of Vanguard's vinyl LPs. These are very worthy performances.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Thomas Hubeart
Date First Submitted:04/05/2005