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Fanfare US" Musically rich, vibrant performances here from three top performers

October 17, 2019

Colin Clarke, Fanfare US

Musically rich, vibrant performances here from three top performers. Michala Petri needs no introduction, surely (neither does her 1992 album of these Bach Sonatas with Keith Jarrett), while Mahan Esfahani has been redefining our ideas around the harpsichord for some time (I was present at his recording sessions for modern works for harpsichord due for release on Hyperion; he is something of a force of nature). Together with German gambist Hille Perl, they present a set of Bach Sonatas that combined beauty, intellect and historical awareness to provide a sublime musical experience. This is OUR Recordings’ 40th release, and the performances seem to speak of life and vivacity that implies there are many more to come.
The Sonatas BWV 1030-32 are marked as with “concertato [obbilgato] harpsichord” and so play to Esfahani’s strengths. His contribution is vibrant (listen to the opening of BWV 1031), and is in perfect congruence with Petri’s rhythmic lift and Perl’s nimble delivery. Esfahani plays on a new instrument built for him in Prague between 2017 and 2018 by Jukka Ollikka, inspired by the Michael Mietke instrument signed “Berlin 1710”. It features a carbon composite soundboard that increases both volume and tuning stability. Petri picks her instruments carefully and intelligently: two different Moeck Rottenburgh in Grenadill (the first tenor recorders she bought as a young student) for the fast and more light running movements plus two different alto recorders. The use of the mellow tenor recorder for BWV 1031-33 works beautifully: the intricate interactions between recorder and harpsichord in the Vivace of BWV 1032 (played in G-Major as against he original key of A) are truly revelatory. Grace informs that Sonata’s central Largo e dolce.
The use of a drone effect in the first movement of the C-Major, BWV 1033 is remarkable, as is the scampering riposte, with its exquisitely shaped phrases from Petri. The darkening of the light into the G-Minor Sonata (originally in E-Minor) is reflected in the extraordinary third movement Andante, here truly exploratory. Only fitting, the, that the Allegro finale might as well be marked “con fuoco”; the virtuosity of all players is remarkable, and here more than anywhere else the presence the recording affords Hille Perl pays off.
The floridly melismatic first movement of BWV 1035 (here played in F-Major, originally in E) carries a beautiful sense of inevitability, while the woody, almost throaty recorder in the Siciliano is an arresting sound. Who said sicilianos were all rest and cotton wool? He characteristic rhythm is here, but so is disquiet. How haunting, too, is the very conclusion, where lines meet, the nexus prolonged beyond expectation. The rigor of the finale seems entirely in keeping with the severity of the Siciliano.
Perhaps the recording is a touch reverberant (Garnisons Kirke, Copenagen), but that should not detract from the importance of these performances. Colin Clarke OCTOBER 2019 Four stars: Musically rich, vibrant performances here from three top performers

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