SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BACH: Four Harpsichord Concertos – F Major BWV 1057, G minor BWV 1058, d minor BWV 1052, A Major BWV 1055 – Retrospect/ Matthew Halls, harpsichord & dir. – Linn

A fine new SACD, which together with a previous one cover all seven Bach solo harpsichord concerti.

Published on November 10, 2012

J.S. BACH: Four Harpsichord Concertos – F Major BWV 1057, G minor BWV 1058, d minor BWV 1052, A Major BWV 1055 – Retrospect/ Matthew Halls, harpsichord & dir. – Linn multichannel SACD CKD 410, 64:24 [10/30/12] (Distr. by Naxos) *****:

Matthew Halls and his Retrospect ensemble (only founded in 2009) have recorded works of Bach before, and Halls’ debut solo recording of The Goldberg Variations won praise from many critics. He has recently been named artistic director of next year’s Oregon Bach Festival. Their name Retrospect refers to the ensemble not being restricted to one historical period or to a rigid number of musicians. They explore up to four centuries of repertory with vigor and fresh approaches.

Bach’s harpsichord concertos were mostly created for a group of musicians who performed weekly—with free attendance for anyone— called the Collegium Musicum, and were stimulated by the availability of fine new harpsichords. For this recording, Retrospect consists of Halls at the harpsichord plus a septet of instrumentalists. The third one here, in d minor, is one of Bach’s most virtuosic concertos—the most so of all seven concertos that he wrote. Its slow movement also appears in one of Bach’s cantatas, and the concerto as a whole shows a strong influence of the music of Vivaldi.

All the concertos are performed with skill and elan, and the balance between the solo instrument and the ensemble is excellent. It’s surprising that there is only one other SACD of four of the harpsichord concertos, and fortunately it duplicates only the Concerto in d minor. (I Barocchisi/Diego Fasolis, with harpsichordist Francesco Cera, on the Arts label {2008}.)

I’ve notice that lately Linn is often not identifying their SACDs as such on the jewel box—only on the actual hybrid disc itself. Perhaps their thinking is that consumers may be confused by the SACD designation (though all SACDs are now hybrid) and deterred from purchase, thinking they won’t be able to play the disc at all.  I’ve also noticed listings of SACDs for sale online that are being sold as plain CDs, with no mention whatever of their being hybrid SACDs.

—John Sunier




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