Gustav Leonhardt

Bach: Italian Concerto; Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue; Toccatas & Suites

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Originally two separate albums recorded in the late days of stereo LPs, this two-disc set of Bach's works for harpsichord was released together for less than the price of a single LP. But even at twice the price of the original LPs, these performances would be worth purchasing for two reasons. First, the harpsichordist is Gustav Leonhardt, and while there are surely more virtuosic harpsichordists in the world, there are few finer musicians and fewer still finer souls. This is not to say that Leonhardt cannot manage the technical demands of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 906 -- he has more than enough technique for that -- but it is to say that his performance is far more expressive and soulful than virtuosic. Indeed, Leonhardt's performance of the Chromatic Fantasy is arguably the finest ever recorded exactly because Leonhardt's performance is far more concerned with interpretation than it is with virtuosity. Second, the two big works on the second disc of the set are Leonhardt's transcriptions of Bach's Cello Suite in E flat, BWV 1010, and his Lute Suite in G minor, BWV 995, and while most Bach transcriptions are hardly worth a listen, Leonhardt's surely are. His transcriptions are intelligent and tasteful and his performances are just as expressive and soulful as all the other performances on the set. Seon's sound was wonderfully intimate and immediate in its day and it still sounds magnificent.

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