A 2 CEMBALI • Martin Gester, Aline Zylberajch (hpd, org) • K 617 233 (65:45)
Music of SOLER, J. and M. HAYDN, MOZART, SCHOBERT, PLANYAVSKY, TELEMANN, VIVALDI
Like some kind of drug-resistant bacterium, the harpsichord has largely thwarted attempts to drag it out of the recital hall and into the light of the popular world. There have been a few notable exceptions: E. Power Biggs’s LPs of ScottRead more Joplin rags on the pedal harpsichord from the late ’60s sold very well, while Don Angle’s jazzy arrangements of popular tunes from the ’70s circulated widely. More recently, Australian harpsichordist Elizabeth Anderson scored a decisive hit with her two decidedly offbeat harpsichord CDs; I enthused over them in Fanfare 34:5 and 34:6. Now the French husband-and-wife team of Gester and Zylberajch have advanced the cause even further; I imagine the target audience for their new CD to be something more than just the early-music crowd—perhaps the kind of people who buy Greatest Hits albums at Walmart or Costco? But the critics won’t be disappointed, either; the CD contains mostly original material from the standard repertoire—no popular tunes at all, and very few arrangements.
The CD begins with one of the familiar two-keyboard concertos of Padre Antonio Soler: No. 6, the rousing conclusion of which is sometimes called “The Emperor’s Fanfare.” Gester and Zylberajch play this on two marvelous-sounding harpsichords—a Dulcken copy by Matthias Griewisch and a Gräbner copy by Denzil Wraight—which blend nicely but have enough contrast in timbre to allow individual lines to emerge. There are two pieces for Flötenuhr (usually translated as “musical clock”) by the brothers Haydn; these are performed on harpsichord and chamber organ, making for a delicious combination of sounds. The Austrian composer Peter Planyavsky (b.1947) contributes four pieces, mostly tonal in nature, which afford a nice, contemporary counterbalance to the program. The Mozart Sonata in D, K 381, was written for piano four-hands, but is here performed on two harpsichords. The Telemann Concerto in B Minor, originally for flute and continuo, is played on harpsichord and organ, the latter providing the original flute line. The kickiest piece on the program, the Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor, was originally No. 8 of L’Estro armonico. It was arranged by Sebastian Bach for organ around 1714, at which time it became BWV 593.
Gester and Zylberajch are crack keyboardists, thoroughly accomplished and always in tune with the stylistic demands of the music. At times they are lyrical and introspective, other times quite thrilling. Best of all they speak with one voice, not always a given even with performers who are not married. My only complaint has to do with annotation; I would have liked to know who is playing primo and who is playing secondo on any given number. The engineering job is absolutely stellar, as they used to say in the ’60s, of “demonstration quality.” Unless you’re a purist who can’t bear to hear the music in anything other than its original guise, this is an absolute must-have for harpsichord fans.
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