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Concerto for two Harpsichords

Christopher Hogwood & Christophe Rousset (Harpsichords)

Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset

O-9

J.S. Bach, W.F. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, J.C. Bach: Concertos & Duets

Concerto for 2 harpsichords in C major, BWV 1061a [17:28]
Die Kunst der Fuge BWV 1080: Contrapunctus 13 [ 4:14]
Duet works by Bach's sons Friedemann, CPE, and Christian

Christopher Hogwood (Harpsichord) [1]; Christophe Rousset (Harpsichord) [1-2].

L'Oiseau-Lyre

Aug 1992

CD / TT: 65:30

Recorded at Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique, Paris, France.
Review: Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset
Buy this album at:
CD: Amazon.com

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 7, 2001):
L'Oiseau-Lyre 440 649 from 1996...Christopher Hogwood and Christophe Rousset go through pieces by the Bachs for two keyboard instruments.

Since you (Michael) mentioned this Hogwood/Rousset disc last week, I've listened to it four or five times to compare it with the Raskin/Milani disc that I reviewed earlier. As you pointed out, the only work in common is the concerto BWV 1061 without strings.

I must say that in their performance I like the second half of the disc much better than the concerto. In all those play-throughs I simply could not keep my mind on listening during the concerto BWV 1061. Every detail is unimpeachably perfect, and all the tempos and articulations are fine, and the harpsichords (original Ruckers and Hemsch, top of the line) sound great, but everything in the performance is just too regular, too literal, too straightforward. I hear completely fluent decoro but not much beyond that: all the notes played beautifully in search of the music, but not finding it! Even the "dash" and "excitement" seem premeditated, not a personal response to how the music makes the performers feel in the moment of playing it. (I have this same problem often when I listen to Hogwood playing or conducting anything...I very often wish he'd inject more spontaneity into his performances rather than settling for such a positivistic "objective" presentation of all the notes.... Play the daggone music, not a mere string of facts!)

The Art of Fugue's Contrapunctus 13 goes OK, but again everything is too discreet, too polite. I wanted to hear more whimsy, more irregularity, not just all the notes and rhythms played with rigorous precision.

The second half has duet works by Bach's sons Friedemann, CPE, and Christian that are hard to find recorded anywhere else. It's worth having the disc for these. Again, though, I find the performances so straightforward and precise that they still don't hold my interest very well. What of substance are they offering that one can't see in an immediate glance at the score? What meaning, if anything, is captured between all those notes? The music is fairly predictable and the performances are even more so. So why bother listening to it as opposed to having it on?

The precise way in which the Hogwood/Rousset duo deliver the notes...it just doesn't move me. It's no fun. It sounds like pretty background music, like "I'll just be sitting over here making nice sounds, don't listen to me, keep on with what you're doing, I won't disturb you."

There could be so much more grit, spirit, fire, and gestural casualness, like the way that Albert Fuller and Eliot Fisk play the trio sonatas arranged for harpsichord and guitar (MusicMasters 67182, recently deleted, a wonderful CD). They let the music pounce and belch and grin and dance and hang together by a thread, and the music is so much richer for all that adventure. They play, like the way a kitten plays: with vigor and joy and spontaneous reactions to circumstances. By comparison they (and Raskin/Milani) make Rousset/Hogwood seem like politely smiling businessmen in three-piece suits, hair perfect with slick gel, everything so fluent and packaged, no unexpected quirks. Flawless work, no play. Sign the contract, pay your money, here are all your notes, end of transaction.

Hogwood/Rousset's performances are "shiny but dull," as a friend of mine says about the interchangeability of typical Hollywood actors. I like that phrase.

Looking back at the preceding paragraphs I see that I'm saying basically the same thing over and over. "This disc bores me." So I'll stop. I guess my review is as one-dimensional as the playing is.

On this disc it's good to hear the relative volumes of harpsichords (Sebastian), clavichords (Friedemann/CPE), and square pianos (Christian) portrayed accurately...the clavichords are very quiet in there, just like in real life.

 

Feedback to the Review

Michael Grover wrote (August 7, 2001):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< On this disc it's good to hear the relative volumes of harpsichords (Sebastian), clavichords (Friedemann/CPE), and square pianos (Christian) portrayed >accurately...the clavichords are very quiet in there, just like in real life. >
Yes, hearing the relative volumes of those instruments on one disc was an ear-opener to me. I've heard solo clavichord discs, and plenty of solo harpsichord discs, and I just adjust the volume on each disc at a nice level for the entire disc so you don't really notice the difference. But when you listen to this CD, and you finish listening to the JS Bach harpsichord works, and then there's a minute or so and you say to yourself, "Hey! Where'd the music go?" and have to crank it to hear the clavichords that have already been playing for 1:07, it's quite the experience.

Interestingly enough, Hogwood specifically requests in his liner notes that you as the listener should NOT adjust the volume once the clavichord starts, which to me is a lot of Hogwood-hogwash. I can see the value of understanding the volume difference between the instruments, but dang it, I paid my bucks and I want to hear the music! So turn it up!

As regards Brad's review, I agree with him that the performances of the other Bachs' works are better than the BWV 1061a. But I'm afraid I'm one of those amateur Joe Q. Public listeners that drive him nuts. I usually enjoy very much the nice, straightforward performances, including this CD. It doesn't concern me a great deal whether the performer is making a revelatory statement with their playing, nor am I dissatisfied if they do nothing more than play what's in the score beautifully and accurately. Since I am a very poor keyboard player myself, any recording is going to be much better than what I could produce trying to play them, so there's obviously much more value in almost any performance than simply reading the score on my part. So I wouldn't hesitate in grabbing this CD if you can find it, if for nothing else than hearing the sons compared to the father and hearing 3 different instruments on one disc.

Of course, this is all moot since it looks like this is NLA anyway... Grrrrr......

Sydney Rosen wrote (August 8, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] I am a new lurker on this list and am enjoying it immensely. I am a non-player, but almost lifelong listener. And I wonder - is there a web site offering used or new-but NLA CDs? I would be interested in a CD offering harpsichord and clavichord renditions on one disc!

Jodie Mistrial wrote (August 9, 2001):
Sydney Rosen wrote:
< I am a non-player, but almost lifelong listener. >
Why not start playing?

Sydney Rosen wrote (August 9, 2001):
[To Jodie Mistrial] It's a little late! I'm 76. not rich enough to buy instrument or lessons, and not healthy. I do write - have done that all my life, so creativity is not stifled. Playing is better than listening - but listening has been deeply satisfying.

 

Keyboard Concertos:
Reviews:
More Bach from Murray Perahia | Harpsichord concertos played on 2, 3, and 4 Organs | Bach on two harpsichords by Raskin, Milani | Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset | Bach Harpsichord with Pinnock | Review: The Italian Bach in Vienna DVD

Christopher Hogwood: Short Biography | The Academy of Ancient Music
Recordings of Vocal Works | Recordings of Instrumental Works | General Discussions
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset

Christophe Rousset: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach's English Suites from Christophe Rousset | Bach(s) on two keyboards delivered by Hogwood and Rousset

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Last update: żNovember 5, 2006 ż01:19:42