Blandine Rannou

Bach: Toccatas BWV 910-916

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Harpsichordist Blandine Rannou has taken on Bach's 7 Toccatas for keyboard, BWV 911-916. These are early works that are among the most infrequently performed of all of his compositions. In many ways, each one seems to be just a cobbling together of smaller pieces, most quite improvisatory sounding, some virtuosic sounding. Even though the toccatas are not as profound as Bach's later, more mature works, their freeform nature implies a certain depth of feeling. Rannou is a skilled performer who has an easy way with the music, but seems to skim over its more expressive possibilities. It is not that the sound of the recording is dulling her performance; it is clear and not overly resonant. The famous first Allegro of the Toccata in D major, BWV 912, is usually imagined as grand and noble, brisk and dashing. Rannou is more relaxed with it, making it more of a cheerful, almost skipping outing. She is most animated in the fantasia-like portions of the toccatas, where she can let go with sweeping flourishes. The slow sections are tinged with feeling that could be more contemplative or ardent, while the fugues could be more majestic and resolute. Despite the relative under-ripe nature of the compositions, a more vivid spark of emotion in Rannou's performance would make these more like what is expected of Bach's keyboard music.

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