One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

in the first division


extraordinary by any standards


An excellent disc


a new benchmark

summation of a lifetime’s experience.


Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


A Garland for John McCabe


ABRAHAMSEN Quartets


DIETHELM Symphonies


The best Rite of Spring in Years


BACH Magnificat


Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26


Just enjoy it!


.
La Mer Ticciati

Eriks EŠENVALDS

Detlev GLANERT

Jaw-dropping

 

 

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partitas BWV 825-830 (Clavier-Übung I) (1726-1730)
Partita No. 1 in B flat major, BWV825 [20:23]
Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV826 [19:29]
Partita No. 3 in A minor, BWV827 [19:29]
Partita No. 4 in D major, BWV828 [25:32]
Partita No. 5 in G major, BWV829 [21:38]
Partita No. 6 in E minor, BWV830 [26:39]
Menno van Delft (clavichord)
rec. 2016, Hatchlands Park, UK
RESONUS CLASSICS RES10212 [59:21 + 73:49]

In the booklet accompanying this issue, the keyboard player Manno van Delft justifies the choice of a 1784 Hoffmann clavichord (one of only a pair of Hoffmann’s instruments that still exist) for the performance of one of J S Bach’s most emblematic keyboard collections as follows: “With its subtle dynamic shading and inherent flexibility – the player is in touch with the string for as long as a note lasts – the clavichord enables a most immediate and intimate interaction with the fabric of the music, responding to the finest nuances of its weave.” He goes on to describe the clavichord as “…. a modest instrument of study and domestic entertainment….”. In fact after a brief discussion of the genesis of the Clavier-Übung I, much of his fascinating essay is devoted to unravelling evidence that supports the hypothesis that the clavichord was in fact Bach’s favourite keyboard instrument. Much of this is drawn from J N Forkel’s early (1802) biography of the master which in turn cites that author’s correspondence with Bach’s eldest sons Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel which reinforces the claim.

I open my review with these thoughts in order to provide a caveat to the general listener. While these discs may be of uncommon interest to lovers of rare and arcane instruments I would argue that for the majority of enthusiasts both the sound of this instrument and the recording itself may provide something other than listening ‘pleasure’. Let me say at the outset that van Delft’s playing seems perfectly fine, under the circumstances; he clearly has these works under his skin and plays them with as much expressiveness as the instrument allows and a sureness of touch – on this clavichord the latter quality is a sine qua non. The pictures of it presented in the booklet (see it here) leave one in little doubt as to the challenges faced by the player.

It’s a brave choice and while those interested in antique instruments may indeed lap this kind of thing up it’s really not something that I think is designed with the casual listener in mind. I started my listening to these discs at 2.30 in the morning when the rest of the family were fast asleep and I had to find something more intimate to review out of consideration for them. At low levels the recording proved almost inaudible and oddly distorted – almost as though I was listening through earmuffs – I heard the first two minor key Partitas (Nos 2 and 3) in this way before thinking better of it and deciding to wait until daytime to try again. When the moment came to turn up the volume I’m afraid it became clear that the muffled impression persisted. And subsequently worsened. It seems that this is certainly down to the instrument. There are also times when it sounds, often (but not exclusively) in its middle and especially upper ranges as if there is a strange, ‘scratchy’ quality to the sonics. It comes and goes across both discs, and forgive my ignorance but I really cannot establish whether this is to do with the action (which tends not unexpectedly to be noisy in any case), the recording, or even the ambience. My suspicion (given the excellence of every Resonus disc which has thus far come my way) is that this is also something to do with this particular clavichord. Inevitably with works that one knows and loves this extraneous noise, whatever its source, is going to detract from the listening experience. It’s the very unpredictability of this effect which I found to be particularly jarring.

Notwithstanding Van Delft’s perfectly reasonable remarks about the clavichord’s singular ability to convey the nuances of the music I’m afraid these two discs do not back them up. In fact they provided little more than a series of insuperable obstacles for this reviewer’s ears and sensibilities. Lazy as it will doubtless seem to some, I have found it well-nigh impossible to comment on ‘interpretation’ under these circumstances – throughout all six Partitas I’m afraid that the over-riding impression occurring to this reviewer is that the major challenge facing van Delft was to somehow safely unpackage the notes Bach wrote down from a rather mean-spirited and unyielding instrument. If indeed Bach did indeed have a preference for this particular kind of keyboard one wonders if it would have persisted had he lived to hear these wonderful works played on Pinnock’s or Koopman’s harpsichords or indeed Levit’s or even Gould’s piano. Ultimately then perhaps these discs, for all the sincerity and integrity behind their provenance, are really only recommendable to clavichord specialists.

Richard Hanlon

 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger