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Bach: Complete Concertos For Solo Harpsichord / Elizabeth Farr


Release Date: 11/17/2009 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572006-07   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Concertos for Solo Harpsichord: BWV 972-93, 975-76, 978, 980 (after Vivaldi); 974 (after A. Marcello); 979 (after Torrelli); 981 (after B. Marcello); 977, 983, 986, 985 (after Telemann); 982, 984, 987 (after Ernst). Prelude and Fugue in a, BWV 894 Elizabeth Farr (hpd) NAXOS 8572006-07 (2 CDs: 150:35)


This recording hit me like a ton of bricks in three ways. First, there is the music itself, not actually by J.S. Read more Bach but rather transcriptions he made for harpsichord of concertos by Vivaldi, Torelli, Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello, Johann Ernst, Telemann, and unknown composers, in addition to his own Prelude and Fugue in A Minor. Second, there is the extraordinarily high quality of Elizabeth Farr’s performances, dramatic, nuanced, and extraordinarily colorful. And third, there is the sound of the instrument, a rare Baroque-era harpsichord with a 16’ set of strings as well as damper and sustain pedals. When this CD first started pouring out of my speakers, I thought I was listening to Wanda Landowska in digital stereo. It turns out that such fabulous beasts did exist, after all, in the Baroque era, in fact from as far back as the 16th century. Well, well, well. It turns out that Landowska, who has been lambasted for more than half a century for her “grotesque,” “gargantuan-sounding” instruments, was on the right track after all. Not having an authentic instrument to play, she simply had Pleyel create one for her. Granted, it had a grand piano frame because she was a touring musician and even a newly minted harpsichord with 16’ strings would have gotten pummeled on trains, but the sound was not that far removed from this.


Farr is also an interesting annotator. In order to save space I refer you to her liner notes, which explain why Bach transcribed 22 concertos by primarily Italian composers for harpsichord (six of them are for two harpsichords). The key to the project was young Prince Johann Ernst, the nephew of Duke Wilhelm, who in fact composed three of the concertos transcribed here. The young prince, an outstanding musician, wanted them to play on his instrument. Bach was willing to oblige for one particular reason: By writing out these concertos he could study their composing methods, and apply what he learned to his own “Italianate” music.


Farr’s playing is in the style of Leonhardt and Kipnis, using a great deal of rubato—some of it obvious, some of it quite subtle—to break up the very regular rhythms. I love this style. It is antithetical to British harpsichordists like Trevor Pinnock (whom I also highly admire), but very much in line with the type of “hesitating” style that Bach himself later employed in so many solo harpsichord works, a style he undoubtedly picked up from his friend and older colleague Buxtehude. She also plays very dramatically—heavy chording and rich textures when emulating the full tutti of the orchestral passages, lighter and airier in slow movements and when emulating solo passages. This took me some getting used to, but I came to enjoy this approach.


Some listeners may feel cheated that only one work (the Prelude and Fugue) is actually by Bach, but as a compendium of Baroque style transcribed by a musical genius, played to perfection and stunningly recorded, this set is very highly recommended.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto in D major after Vivaldi, BWV 972 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
2. Concerto in G major after Vivaldi, BWV 973 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
3. Concerto in G minor after Vivaldi, BWV 975 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
4. Concerto in C major after Vivaldi, BWV 976 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
5. Concerto in F major after Vivaldi, BWV 978 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
6. Concerto in G major after Vivaldi, BWV 980 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
7. Concerto in C major after an unknown composer, BWV 977 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
8. Concerto in G minor after an unknown composer, BWV 983 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
9. Concerto in G major after an unknown composer, BWV 986 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
10. Concerto in B minor after an unknown composer, BWV 979 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
11. Concerto in D minor after Alessandro Marcello, BWV 974 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
12. Concerto in C minor after Benedetto Marcello, BWV 981 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
13. Concerto in B flat major after Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, BWV 982 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
14. Concerto in C major after Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, BWV 984 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
15. Concerto in D minor after Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, BWV 987 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
16. Concerto in G minor after Telemann, BWV 985 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
17. Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Elizabeth Farr (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 

Sound Samples

Keyboard Concerto in D major, BWV 972 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in D major, RV 230): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in D major, BWV 972 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in D major, RV 230): II. Larghetto
Keyboard Concerto in D major, BWV 972 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in D major, RV 230): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 973 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 299): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 973 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 299): II. Largo
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 973 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 299): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 975 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 316): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 975 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 316): II. Largo
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 975 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 316): III. Gigue: Presto
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 976 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in E major, RV 265): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 976 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in E major, RV 265): II. Largo
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 976 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in E major, RV 265): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in F major, BWV 978 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 310): I. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in F major, BWV 978 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 310): II. Largo
Keyboard Concerto in F major, BWV 978 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in G major, RV 310): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 980 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV 381): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 980 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV 381): II. Largo
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 980 (arr. of Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in B flat major, RV 381): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 977: I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 977: II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 977: III. Giga
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 983: I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 983: II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 983: III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 986: I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 986: II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in G major, BWV 986: III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): I. [Adagio] - Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): IV. Andante
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): V. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in B minor, BWV 979 (arr. of Torelli's Violin Concerto): VI. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 974 (arr. of A. Marcello's Oboe Concerto): I. [Andante]
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 974 (arr. of A. Marcello's Oboe Concerto): II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 974 (arr. of A. Marcello's Oboe Concerto): III. Presto
Keyboard Concerto in C minor, BWV 981 (arr. of B. Marcello's Concerto, Op. 1, No. 2): I. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in C minor, BWV 981 (arr. of B. Marcello's Concerto, Op. 1, No. 2): II. Vivace
Keyboard Concerto in C minor, BWV 981 (arr. of B. Marcello's Concerto, Op. 1, No. 2): III. [Adagio]
Keyboard Concerto in C minor, BWV 981 (arr. of B. Marcello's Concerto, Op. 1, No. 2): IV. Prestissimo
Keyboard Concerto in B flat major, BWV 982 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 1): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in B flat major, BWV 982 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 1): II. Adagio - III. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in B flat major, BWV 982 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 1): IV. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 984 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Concerto): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 984 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Concerto): II. Adagio e affettuoso
Keyboard Concerto in C major, BWV 984 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Concerto): III. Allegro assai
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 987 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 4): I. [Grave]
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 987 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 4): II. Allegro
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 987 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 4): III. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in D minor, BWV 987 (arr. of Prince Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar's Violin Concerto, Op. 1, No. 4): IV. Vivace
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 985 (arr. of Telemann's Violin Concerto, TWV 51:g1): I. [Allegro]
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 985 (arr. of Telemann's Violin Concerto, TWV 51:g1): II. Adagio
Keyboard Concerto in G minor, BWV 985 (arr. of Telemann's Violin Concerto, TWV 51:g1): III. Allegro
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894: Prelude
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894: Fugue

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