J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Concerti for Harpsichord and Strings

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Gustav Leonhardt
Accompaniment/Orchestra:Leonhardt Ensemble
Individual Works:J.S. Bach: Concerto for harpsichord in D minor, BWV 1052
C.P.E. Bach: Concerto in D Minor Wq.23
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Sony Classical/SEON
Catalog Number:SBK 63188
Year Released/Recorded:1981
Total Playing Time:47:09
Comments:Thomas Hubeart said:

This recording, judging by the date that the liner notes give, was made at the very beginning of the digital age--a couple of years before the CD started to become the dominant medium for classical music. I would have to say that Leonhardt and his nameless ensemble (the individual players are itemized in the booklet, but the jewel case attributes the recording solely to "Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord and Musical Director") give a proficient, competent performance of BWV 1052. But I cannot say it left a strong impression.

One notable feature of BWV 1052 as recorded here is the relative slowness of the outer movements' tempos: 8'01" for the first movement (compared with Pinnock at 7'25" and Kipnis/Marriner at 7'54"), and 8'37" for the third (Pinnock: 7'49", Kipnis/Marriner: 7'36" [a full minute shorter!]). Despite this, someone coming to this concerto for the first time will not be shortchanged or ill-served by this performance. It's simply that little new ground in this well-known concerto seems to be broken by Leonhardt, in contrast to the crackling energy of Pinnock or the solemnity and power of Kipnis/Marriner.

The C.P.E. Bach work comes off much better, perhaps because this is a little-heard concerto in comparison to Sebastian's. Emanuel's concerto has little in common with his father's, but is very much of a piece with the "empfindsam" spirit of his other harpsichord concerti. I'm not sure that this is the best conceivable recording of an Emanuel Bach concerto (for something closer to that mark, try Ludger Remy and Les Amis des Philippe on the CPO label). But Leonhardt and his forces seem to be in sympathy with the music and bring it off well.

The total disc time is rather short, but this reissue by Sony of a SEON recording is budget priced at this writing. The J.S. Bach part of this disc is interesting but will probably not supplant your current favorite recording of BWV 1052; the Emanuel Bach portion, however, makes it worth getting if you have an interest in this son of Sebastian.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Thomas Hubeart
Date First Submitted:12/25/1996