The cover of this album, with its fair-haired and rather too enthusiastic child receiving instruction at the harpsichord, may be a bit on the cute side, but this disc from Dutch harpsichord stalwart Bob van Asperen stands out from the crowd of other recordings of the Two- and Three-Part Inventions for keyboard, otherwise known as Inventions and Sinfonias. Van Asperen was a student of the great harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt, and his Bach playing is in the Leonhardt vein: not overemotional or very dramatic, but technically flawless and somehow attuned to the intellectual depths of Bach's music. He has also gone beyond major repertory to unearth unknown keyboard works and provide contextual studies of them. That's what he does here with Bach's very famous keyboard music written for his most prized students -- his children. Van Asperen's booklet (very poorly translated into English) not only discusses the basic features of the music, which like the etudes of Chopin embeds profound thinking into the form of a technical exercise. He also discusses the situations under which the music was composed, and he reproduces a nice page of Bach's handwriting, a blurb in which the composer touts the virtues of the Inventions and Sinfonias. As one might expect, Bach's handwriting is meaty and sensuous, yet so ramrod-straight you could use its bottom edge for a ruler. Rounding out the disc are various other little preludes and fugues for student keyboardists. This reissued disc is a good pick for any player taking first steps into Bach, whether on the harpsichord, the piano, or something else entirely.
Review by James Manheim
|Two-Part Inventions (15), for keyboard, BWV 772-786 (BC L42-56)|
|Three-Part Inventions (Sinfonias) (15), for keyboard BWV 787-801 (BC L42-56)|
|Prelude and Fugue, for keyboard in A minor, BWV 895 (BC L129)|