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Scott Ross (Harpsichord)

Scott Ross performs Bach Keyboard Works

K-9

J.S. Bach: Italian Concerto; Chromatic Fantasia and Fuge; Overture (Partita) in the French Style; 4 Duets
Bach: Italian Concerto; Overture in B minor
Scott Ross Plays Harpsichord [Box Set]
[B-3]

 

1. Duets BWV 802-805 []
2. French Overture in B minor, BWV 831 [27:23]
3. Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 []
4. Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971 [12:33]

Scott Ross (Harpsichord) [David Ley Harpsichord, Paris]

Erato - Apex
Teldec

Jun 1988 [2-4]; Dec 1988 [1]

CD / TT: 63:07
CS / TT: 40:01

Recorded at Château d'Assas, Assas, Hérault, France. [2-4]; Salle Adyar, Paris, France [1]. Teldec album includes [2, 4] only.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com [Apex] | Amazon.com [Teldec] | Amazon.com [Box Set]

Donald Satz wrote (November 27, 2001):
Comparative Recordings:

Kenneth Gilbert - Harmonia Mundi 901278
Robert Woolley - EMI Reflex 49800
Maggie Cole - Virgin Veritas 61555(Italian Concerto Only)

Summary Rating: A

Scott Ross is most revered for his traversal of the Scarlatti solo keyboard works. However, he also made some great recordings of Bach's keyboard music. Teldec, as part of its Bach 2000 series, has just released a disc of Scott Ross performing the Italian Concerto and the Overture in B minor.

This new reissue has very short measure in the forty minute range. Although the disc is mid-priced, a budget price would seem to be more in line with market forces. However, Scott Ross recordings can transcend price, and it's the performances which matter most.

For the disc at hand, Ross does not disappoint. He's particularly exuberant and exciting in the faster movements; many of them are now my favorite versions. The downside is that Ross takes quick tempos in the Italian Concerto's Andante and in the opening Grave from the Overture in B minor. My response is that Ross doesn't allow the music sufficient opportunity to unfold its treasures. These are two very important movements; The Andante is the heart and soul of the Italian Concerto and the Grave is the Overture's calling-card. Still, Ross is too good in all the other movements to pass up. This is a disc which rates a spot in your Bach library.

Here are my comments as I took the short journey through the disc:

Italian Concerto in F major, BWV 971 - This three movement work begins with an Allegro of great bounce, enthusiasm, and energy. Ross certainly displays these qualities in full measure with a vivacious account that is very strong on forward momentum; it seems to bubble over with joy. Ross is the equal of the slower Gilbert and quicker Cole; these three are as good as it gets on the harpsichord.

The Andante is one of Bach's most beautiful and conversational keyboard pieces. The interaction between the ornate right hand and the sighing left hand is stunning and pierces the heart. I tend to go for slowish performances close to or over five minutes; that gives me ample time to assimilate the conversations. Scott Ross is quick at just over four minutes. His reading just can't deliver the wealth of interaction at such a pace. Switch to Robert Woolley and hear a luxurious performance of superb detail and poetry.

The Presto is even more vivacious and extroverted than the opening movement. It thrives on excitement, drive, and pure joy. Ross is really in his element in the Presto. My previous favorite, Woolley, is less exciting than Ross even though Ross is slower. The drive that Ross delivers is so strong and constant; he never lets the listener off the hook.

Overall, the Ross Italian Concerto has much to offer in the outer movements; the Presto is the best I've heard. It's a shame about the quick tempo Ross uses in the Andante, but I still consider his performance of the Italian Concerto as fine as the comparative versions. And you don't want to miss out on that transcendent Presto.

Overture in B minor, BWV 831 - This is a great Bach creation which consists of a large-scale opening movement in the French manner followed by a series of dance movements. The Ross first movement has a thrilling fugal allegro, but the Grave opening is too quick. As with his Andante from the Italian Concerto, I don't feel sufficient time has been spent on presenting the music. Also, there's a sprightly nature to his Grave which I find out of sync with the music's emotional themes.

All goes splendidly when Ross hits the dance numbers. In fact, I enjoy his performances more than any other recorded versions. Three of them rate special mention. Nobody brings out the drama of the Courante like Ross, and his bass line is perfectly weighted. In the Bourree series, Bourree I is the height of exuberance; II is quick, packed with momentum, and has an hypnotic bass line. His Gigue is another 'best' as it provides the strongest sense of an inexorable march to completion.

Don's Conclusions: The Ross disc has two aspects which I don't appreciate; it's short, and I find Ross too quick in two of the slow movements. More than offsetting are the terrific fast movements of the Italian Concerto and all of the dance movements from the Overture in B minor. His lively and idiomatic readings are essential listening.

Concerning sound quality, it is very good for 1988 harpsichord recordings. There are no strident sounds, and the bass is rich without being heavy. Actually, the bass is great and Ross takes full advantage. I am glad to have the recording and suggest you go out and get your very own copy. Don't expect much from the cover art. It's visually boring and made more so because all the Teldec one and two disc releases from their giant COMPLETE package have the same exact covers. Teldec must have saved big bucks on this one, enough to buy a few Big Macs and fill the stomachs of some corporate gurus.

I just have to take a little excursion here as I'm thinking of the cd covers from the Bach/Suzuki Cantata series on BIS. It happens that one of the local stores always slams the price right on the volume number of the disc. You've seen those covers, right? It's the volume number which tells you easily which disc you're looking at. Without that clue, you have to know your Suzuki very well and get into the details of cantata numbers recorded in Suzuki's past issues. Some store employees think they have the whole CD cover to choose from in selecting the annointed area which gets obliterated. This is very annoying, but I shall overcome; it's possible.

 

Feedback to the Review

Bert Bailey wrote (November 30, 2001):

Donald Satz wrote that: <... Scott Ross is most revered for his traversal of the Scarlatti solo keyboard works. However, he also made some great recordings of Bach's keyboard music. >
I'd like to add to this short list Scott Ross's very worthy rendering (on Erato 2292-45435-2) of some of Padre Antonio Soler's sonatas, with the famous Fandango. It's now out in a bargain double accompanied by some music by Pergolesi, iirc.

I've heard some complain that Ross's style generally is too metronomic and suffers from being very by-the-book; in short, that his playing suffers from an excess of vigour, and maybe lacks nuance. I'd agree that he's got the most resolute fingers I've ever heard knead a keyboard, but I find his renderings especially of Soler's music admirably clean and pure.

 

Scott Ross: Short Biography | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Scott Ross performs Bach Keyboard Works | Scott Ross Performs Bach's Partitas for Keyboard | A Terrific Trio of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier

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Last update: żOctober 15, 2006 ż11:47:46