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J.S. Bach: Clavierubung II / Alexander Weimann

Release Date: 09/29/2009 
Label:  Atma Classique   Catalog #: 2603   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexander Weimann
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BACH Italian Concerto. Overture in the French Style Alexander Weimann (hpd) (period instrument) ATMA 2603 (47:29)

Over a decade spanning the years 1730 to 1741, Bach assembled and published in four volumes those keyboard works he had written to date that he held to be most representative of his art. The six partitas comprised Book I of the Clavierübung (“Keyboard Practice”); the Italian Concerto Read more and B-Minor Overture in the French Style comprised Book II. Book III, which came to be called the “German Organ Mass,” contained 21 Lutheran hymn chorale preludes and four duets, framed by a grand opening prelude and a closing five-voice triple fugue. Book IV consisted of but a single work, the Goldberg Variations . Playing on a 2008 copy of a 1774 Johann Heinrich Gräbner der Jüngere harpsichord built by Montreal maker Yves Beaupré, Alexander Weimann here gives us the two works that comprise Book II.

Munich-born Weimann has performed throughout Europe, the U.S., and Canada, and has appeared at festivals and concerts in Berkeley, Boston, Tanglewood, Washington, Montreal, London, Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, Madrid, and elsewhere. He also appears as frequent guest artist with Ensemble 415, the Freiburger Orchestra, and Tafelmusik, among others. First prize winner in the early-music competition at Concorso Premio Bonporti in Rovereto, Italy, Weimann taught music theory from 1990 to 1995 at Munich’s Musikhochschule, and since 1998, has given classes in harpsichord, chamber music, and performance practice at the Lunds University in Malmø, Sweden, the Hochschule für Musik in Bremen, Germany, and also at several American festivals and universities, including Berkeley, Boston, and Dartmouth. Currently Weimann divides his time between Montreal and Berlin.

Minus any makeweights to fill out the disc, the two works that constitute the Clavierübung ’s Book II make for fairly short playing time, but Weimann is not alone in this regard. The late, great American harpsichordist Scott Ross did likewise for Teldec, as did Danish keyboardist Lars Ulrik Mortensen for the Kontrapunkt label. Performance-wise and interpretively, I very much like Weimann’s approach, which is distinguished by crisp, clean articulation, alert phrasing, clear voicing, and rhythmic buoyancy that does not depend on extremes of tempo to make its point. In fact, Weimann, overall, takes a full seven minutes longer than Ross, whose velocity is exhilarating, but who sacrifices some of Bach’s contrapuntal badinage in the exchange.

Not all is blemish free with Weimann’s effort, however. I would hasten to add, though, that the fault is not his. Yves Beaupré’s harpsichord, well balanced and responsive as it sounds, has a bit of a problem holding its pitch, so that by three-quarters of the way through the program one begins to hear intervals that are ever so slightly out of tune. Since the booklet note mentions nothing about the instrument having been alternately tuned, and the effect seems to become progressively more noticeable late in the game, I have to assume that the harpsichord itself is in need of a bit more tweaking. Those who are not super-sensitive to very minor deviations in intonation will probably not even notice; and certainly the matter does not rise to the level of disqualifying an otherwise fine performance and recording. Recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexander Weimann (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Overture in the French style in B minor, BWV 831 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alexander Weimann (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany 

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