Pierre Hantaï

J.S. Bach: Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue; Toccatas

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This double-album budget set collects Bach recordings made by French harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï in 1997 and 1998, about halfway between his two celebrated versions of the Goldberg Variations, BWV 988. If you like the engineering -- close-up and intense, but not oversaturated with ambient noise -- these are excellent picks for some of Bach's lesser-known early keyboard pieces. The star attraction is very strong as well: the extreme Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903, comes out spectacularly on Hantaï's harpsichord, a copy by Dutch builder Joel Katzman of a Flemish Ruckers instrument of the 17th century. From the opening ascending run, this is a vivid, effortlessly virtuosic reading that injects the work with considerable tension but always stops just short of individual mannerism. Hantaï's style has some of the straightforward muscularity of that of his teacher, Gustav Leonhardt, but he takes more chances with the rhythm and attractively sets off the halves of the various small prelude-fugue pairs. The Suite in E minor, BWV 996, originally written for an obsolete keyboard instrument called the Lautenwerk offers a good example of Hantaï's exciting, high-momentum style. Sample the Bourrée (track 5): Hantaï isn't overly concerned with the nature of the original dance, instead sweeping through Bach's long internal lines in a commanding reading. At a budget price, this is hard to beat for any basic Bach library.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Suite in E minor, BWV 996 "Aufs Lautenwerck"
1 2:15
2 3:07
3 2:22
4 3:57
5 0:59
6 2:36
7 1:40
Toccata in D minor, BWV 913
8 0:47
9 2:08
10 3:32
11 3:26
12 4:12
Toccata in E minor, BWV 914
13 0:36
14 1:34
15 1:59
16 3:13
17 2:15
Toccata in G minor, BWV 915
18 1:17
19 3:41
20 4:21
Sonata in D minor, BWV 964
21 3:48
22 7:03
23 5:41
24 5:38
blue highlight denotes track pick