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Concerto for Two Harpsichords BWV 1061
Mario Raskin & Oscar Milani (harpsichords)
Bach on two harpsichords by Raskin, Milani

T-1

J.S. Bach: Œuvres pour deux clavecins - Concerto et transcriptions

Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051, transcribed for 2 harpsichords [15:26]
Concerto for 2 harpsichords, strings & continuo No. 2 in C major, BWV 1061, transcribed for 2 harpsichords [17:37]
Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, BWV 1066, transcribed for 2 harpsichords [18:59]
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067, , transcribed for 2 harpsichords [19:38]

Mario Raskin & Oscar Milani (Harpsichords)

Disques Pierre Verany PV-700016

Jan 2000

CD / TT: 71:40

Recorded in Paris, France.
Listen on YouTube:
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, BWV 1051: 1. Allegro [13:14]
Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067: 7. Badinerie [5:00]
Buy this album at:
CD (2009): Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de
Music Download: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de

Bach on two harpsichords by Raskin, Milani

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 1, 2001):

Mario Raskin and Oscar Milani play Bach on two harpsichords: Disques Pierre Verany 700016, recorded in January 2000 in Paris.
http://www.allegro-music.com/online_catalog.asp?sku_tag=PVY3700016

The Brandenburg Concerto #6 is the last piece on here, and it is itself worth the price of the disc. Wonderful! Less successful but still good are the orchestral suite #1 in C, the C major concerto for two harpsichords (BWV 1061), and the orchestral suite #2 in b minor. All these except the concerto BWV 1061 are arranged by the performers.

Raskin and Milani play with verve. Their arrangements are fairly straightforward, and more conservative than Bach's own writing in the concerto (and in the Art of Fugue mirror arrangements). Bach plays more games with passing the themes back and forth between the players, relishing the stereo effects. The arrangements by R/M generally just assign each player two main melodic lines and as many other bits as can be handled comfortably, either as continuo chords or as additional lines here and there. I wished for a little more humor in it, but it's fine. And they make tasteful use of the buff stops.

This disc reminded me immediately of the one by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet (all four orchestral suites) that I reviewed in March: Amazon.com

The overall sound is similar (plucked strings playing orchestral Bach), but the performances here by Raskin and Milani are much more engaging.

Raskin and Milani do have a quirk (fault?) that I found very annoying sometimes: they often play at or over the front edge of their chosen tempos, rushing the music. This is especially so in the overtures of the two suites: the dotted rhythms are really quite far off and misshapen. I normally don't mind when performers "triplet-ize" dotted passages if it's on purpose (for example, as almost everybody does in the finale of Brandenburg #5). But here it sounds as if Raskin and Milani frankly can't quite read the rhythms or feel the beat. The dotted notes are just not held long enough to go with the way they're playing the short notes.... Those two overtures gave me some trepidation about the rhythm in the dance movements to follow, but then the dance movements came across better than expected.

That tendency to rush, plus the general "hot-plate" articulation, makes it sound as if they were nervous at the sessions. Maybe or maybe not, but that's the effect it gives. The performances are exciting but not quite steady or settled. Most of these comments about rushing apply only to the suites and the C major concerto; the Brandenburg #6 sounds much more secure and (at the same time) more energetic and committed.

The C major concerto is played without Bach's optional string parts. It works well either way.

The suites are sparkling and clear; sometimes it's nice to trade in the orchestral tone colors for the contrapuntal clarity of these lines.

I kept having a strange mental experience while listening to the b minor suite. Heard here on harpsichords, it sounds _so_ much like the solo partita in b minor: almost as if it's the same piece (spiritually, structurally, in character, in dramatic effects, and even in the shapes of the themes).

This brings us back to the Brandenburg #6. The performance is infectious and you'll find your toes tapping or head bobbing to it in the first and third movements. This arrangement brings out the tight canonic writing in the first movement, and the composition is clearer here than it is on the usual violas. (That's just the way viola tone is: lush and warm at the expense of totally crisp rhythm.) The second movement has the best-played slow music on the disc, loose and fresh. It's clear that they're listening through their melodic lines here and letting them sing, while in the suites and concerto they seemed more concerned with just staying together cleanly. (This movement shows that Raskin and Milani can play slow music well; it made me wish they'd done it better on the rest of the album.) Not much needs to be said about the third movement beyond "it rocks." And there's always something special about hearing harpsichords play low in their range, as here. It reminds me of French harpsichord music, richly sonorous. As I said above, buy this disc for the Brandenburg concerto and the rest is a bonus.

The recorded sound is pretty good, but I noticed some low steady rumbling when I listened on my (low quality) big speakers. Paris at night? A heating system?

Raskin and Milani have done a CD of Piazzola tangos on two harpsichords; I might have to pick that one up too. I listened to some of those samples at Allegro's site and didn't notice any rhythmic problems there; perhaps they're more comfortable in Piazzola's music than Bach's?

 

Feedback to the above Review

Michael Grover wrote (August 1, 2001):

[To Bradley Lehman] Have you heard the two-harpsichord recording of 1061 by Hogwood and Rousset? Any comparisons? I find the 2 Christophe(r)s' playing delightful – exactly steaand settled the way you wish Raskin and Milani would play most of the time, while still injecting an excellent portion of dash and excitement into the performance. Of course, that work is the only good comparison point, since the rest of the works on the Hogwood and Rousset disc (other than the Art of Fugue selections) are by other Bachs, and on other instruments, to boot. (Incidentally, I love the J.C. Bach Duet, performed on "square pianos", on that CD. Wonderful galant music, obviously pointing the way to Mozart!)

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 1, 2001):

[To Michael Grover] I think I have that Hogwood/Rousset disc, yes; I'll do a comparison sometime in the next week or so. I'm away from my desk at the moment so I'm not absolutely sure I have that one, but I think so. I know I've heard it, and I remember it being very precise and consequently a little dull, as I often find in Hogwood's playing.... But more

Laurent Planchon wrote (August 1, 2001):

Have you also heard a similar experience –although their transcriptions were of organ pieces- by Sempe and Fortin on Astree ? Wonderful playing and a very interesting recording. I wonder how it compares to this one.

 

Concertos for Keyboard & Orchestra BWV 1052-1065: Details
Recordings:
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
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 | Review: The Italian Bach in Vienna DVD | Bach Harpsichord with Pinnock
General Discussions:

Mario Raskin: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works | Keyboard Transcriptions: Works | Recordings
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach on two harpsichords by Raskin, Milani

Oscar Milani: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works | Keyboard Transcriptions: Works | Recordings
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach on two harpsichords by Raskin, Milani

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Last update: ıSeptember 12, 2011 ı14:16:26