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Johann Sebastian BACH
Keyboard Works from the Cothen Period, BWV 813a, 815a, 818, 819a, 839, 840, 870a, 872a, 875a, 895, 899, 900, 901, 902, 902a, 903a, 918, 919, 924 - 931, 933 - 938, 939 - 943, 947, 948, 952, 953, 956, 957 and 961.
Robert Hill - Lute-Harpsichord by Keith Hill (Manchester, Michigan, USA 1995) and Clavichord by Keith Hill (after Friderici ca 1750, 1997).
recorded in the Pfarrkirche, Oberried, Breisgau - June 1999.
Hanssler CD 92.107 (2 disc set) [2'01"14] DDD

This set is Volume 107 in the EDITION BACHAKADEMIE, jointly produced by Hanssler Classics and the Internationale Backacademie Stuttgart. They are in the process of releasing a comprehensive edition of the complete works of J.S. Bach which when completed, will run to over 170 discs. This issue may therefore be seen as part of a scholarly collection, but don't let this put you off. The only drawback to a release such as this is relative monotony of a large number of similar pieces one after the other, but of course the same criticism applies to all discs of this kind.

The first disc is played on the Lute Harpsichord, and the second is played on the Clavichord. Both instruments are modern copies of instruments made in the !700's and unlike restorations which sometimes sound just that, both of these instruments sound very fine indeed with a very strong, clear sound, admirably captured by the excellent digital recording.

Robert Hill's playing of both instruments is superb, and we couldn't want a stronger advocate for these many pieces written by Bach as teaching aids mainly from his time spent in Cothen. This coincided with Bach's teaching of his eldest son, Willhelm Friedmann and it is conjectured that some of these pieces came into existence for this very purpose.

There are many other collections of studies such as this but they tended to be written for experienced and developed players. Examples that come to mind are The Well Tempered Klavier and the Orgelbuchlein. The collection recorded here is for more junior hands, although the elan and complexity of the pieces will stretch and young minds (and fingers) to the limit.

There is only one minor miscalculation with this set in my opinion, and that is to keep each disc separate as far as the instruments used. Having taken the wise step to utilise two different (albeit slight) tonal sounds to give presumably a bit of variety, to then keep the instruments on separate discs seems a bit odd, since when one is listening to the various works, the effect of variety is lost.

On these two discs we have a selection of works as follows: Applicatio, Chromatic Fantasy, Courante, Fantasia, Fugue, Minuet, Preambulam, Preambulam and Fughetta, Prelude, Prelude and Fughetta, Prelude and Fugue, Sarabande and Suite. There are therefore plenty of different forms to enjoy and although this issue does not hold any masterpieces, and clearly is collection of pieces whose inclusion is ensured because of the type of edition they are in, there is much pleasure to be had from this set.

Whilst the more popular issues in this set will possibly sell more copies, this set is not in extensive competition with many others (apart from competitive series) and although I haven't heard any of these, I cannot imagine that they would be any better than the current issue.

As always in this series, the documentation is first class (in four languages) and contains detailed notes on all the individual pieces. It shows the scholarly depth which has gone into this series, and anyone wanting these pieces in their collections will be delighted with this issue.

John Phillips

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