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J.S.BACH: By Arrangement  Colin Booth Harpsichord SOUNDBOARD SBCD 981[75.09]

Only available from Colin Booth


Sonata in D minor BWV 964, arranged by J S Bach from his own Sonata in A minor for solo violin.
Concerto in C major, BWV 976, arranged by J.S.Bach from a violin concerto by Vivaldi.
Suite in Cminor W.62/6, reconstructed from various manuscripts by Howard Ferguson.
Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 1004.
Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004, arranged by Colin Booth from J S Bach's Partita in D minor for solo violin.

Borrowing themes, re-arranging movements and transcribing whole sonatas and concertos for other instruments was part of the stock in trade of 18th century composers - both from their own earlier works and from those of other composers. In some cases such practices might today cause disputes under the laws of copyright and plagiarism. However the 18th century was free of such legal impedimenta. What defined the greatness of a particular work was not so much whether the thematic material was a de novo inspiration of the composer as the skill with which the material was deployed in constructing a coherent opus. In those days, relatively little music was published in print runs; mostly it was passed from hand to hand in manuscript form then copied out with such re-arrangements as the availability of performers and instruments necessitated.

J. S. Bach was especially adept at the art of transcription; his skill was such that it is usually impossible to discern from the arrangement what the scoring of the original had been. This skill is amply illustrated by the transcriptions for solo harpsichord on this disc of Bach's own violin sonata in A minor and of a violin concerto by Vivaldi - so perfectly attuned are they to exploiting the idiosyncratic potentialities of the double-decker harpsichord. The performing realisations by Colin Booth are all but perfect - to the extent that one becomes convinced that Bach has entered his soul (or vice versa). The depth of Booth's insight is further demonstrated by the performance of his own arrangement of Bach's Chaconne in D minor. All the performances are convincing proof that Colin Booth is a musician who lives and breathes harpsichord every waking (and sleeping?) moment. As the accompanying notes explain, he has devoted much careful thought to matters of interpretation: the use of improvisation where only homophonic chords exist in the manuscript, the execution of ornamentation, and judgment of tempi. Listeners need not (unless interested in doing so) concern themselves with the minutiae of intellectual musicology; they can just bask in the resultant total effect which on this disc sounds "just right". Throughout, the playing has a natural authenticity - as distict from the over-prescriptive ostentatious "authenticity" which regrettably afflicts so many Baroque performances these days. This disc is keyboard playing par excellence and rates being an essential acquisition for harpsichord devotees.

To those who simply cannot abide the sound of the solo harpsichord, I can only say: "Go on! try it anyway - you might just be converted"


Humphrey Smith


Humphrey Smith

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