WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Bach: French Suites, Inventions, Sinfonias, Italian Concerto / Gustav Leonhardt


Release Date: 04/03/2012 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 796257   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
On sale!
CD:  $19.99
In Stock



Notes and Editorial Reviews

Reviews of some of the original recordings that make up this set:

Italian Concerto, BWV 971; Toccatas, BWV 912 & 913; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903
Performance: 5 (out of 5); Sound: 5 (out of 5). After years of comparative obscurity, several of Gustav Leonhardt’s most interesting solo keyboard recitals are once again seeing the light of day. This two-CD set is one of them. The contents of the first disc, which includes the Italian Concerto, two toccatas, a fantasias and a fugue, have previously been available on CD; but the music on the second disc has not been reissued since the LP era. The recordings were made around 20 years ago and reveal two aspects of Leonhardt’s musicianship, those of
Read more performer and arranger. The Italian Concerto and Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue are played with rhythmic suppleness and a fine sense of virtuosity and rhetoric. The Suites, on the other hand, are fascinating, if not in the end altogether satisfying arrangements of the Fourth Suite for unaccompanied cello and a lute Suite in G minor. Both the playing and the fine sounding harpsichord by Christian Zell are well worth a detour.

– Nicholas Anderson, BBC Music Magazine

Inventions, BWV 772-86; Sinfonias, BWV 787-801
Performance: 5 (out of 5); Sound: 5 (out of 5). In the early 1720s, Bach composed 15 two-part ‘praeambulae’ and 15 three-part ‘fantasias’ as learning aids for his son Wilhelm Friedemann. In 1723 he made a fair copy of the pieces, which he revised, reordered and renamed inventions and sinfonias. He also underlined their didactic purpose, the title-page describing them as ‘straightforward instruction’ in playing in two and three voices, in developing good compositional ideas and, in particular, in perfecting a ‘cantabile manner’.

Bach’s stress on educational function should not obscure the fact that the inventions and sinfonias are extremely engaging works. From bravura exuberance (Inventions 8 and 12, Sinfonia 15) to delicate filigree (Inventions 6 and 11, Sinfonia 11), these brief pieces offer a treasurehouse of lively, attractive music that also, in the anguished F minor Sinfonia, touches on more tragic and profound emotions.

Although there are several good piano versions available (the benchmark here being Angela Hewitt’s 1994 Hyperion recording), the withdrawal from UK circulation of Ton Koopman’s highly regarded Capriccio disc means there is no comparable benchmark among harpsichordists. Fortunately, either of these two new releases could fill that gap. Gustav Leonhardt’s 1974 recording exhibits his trademark clarity and thoughtfulness; some may detect a hint of the pedagogue in his playing, but this is a sparkling account. Masaaki Suzuki favours a softer-toned instrument, has a more lyrical touch and sounds completely at ease with the music. He doesn’t always match Leonhardt’s rigour in articulating the music’s inner workings, but his ‘cantabile manner’ comes close to perfection.

– Graham Lock, BBC Music Magazine

French Suites, BWV 812, 813, 815, 816, 817
"Initially composed in 1722 as practice pieces for his wife Anna Magdalena, Bach’s French Suites are among his most popular keyboard works – concise, easy to play and delightfully melodic. Despite the suites’ title (which was not Bach’s own), French, Italian and German influences are all discernible, though Bach integrates them within a refined and highly cogent personal style.

Gustav Leonhardt’s 1975 performances, precise yet vigorous, continue to ring with an exhilarating authority."

– Graham Lock, BBC Music Magazine
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. French Suite no 1 in D minor, BWV 812 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
2. French Suite no 2 in C minor, BWV 813 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
3. French Suite no 3 in B minor, BWV 814 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
4. French Suite no 4 in E flat major, BWV 815 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
5. French Suite no 5 in G major, BWV 816 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
6. French Suite no 6 in E major, BWV 817 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
7. Two-Part Inventions (15), BWV 772-786 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 24 Minutes 58 Secs. 
8. Three-Part Inventions (15), BWV 787-801 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1974 
Venue:  Baptist Church, Amsterdam, Netherlands 
Length: 29 Minutes 42 Secs. 
9. Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1976 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 13 Minutes 19 Secs. 
10. Toccata in D major, BWV 912 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1710; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1976 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 11 Minutes 23 Secs. 
11. Toccata in D minor, BWV 913 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1708; ?Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/1976 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 14 Minutes 16 Secs. 
12. Fugue in A minor, BWV 944 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/1977 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 6 Minutes 21 Secs. 
13. Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 906: Fantasia by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1738; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 07/1977 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 5 Minutes 1 Secs. 
14. Suite for Cello solo no 4 in E flat major, BWV 1010 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/1979 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 23 Minutes 24 Secs. 
15. Suite for Lute in G minor, BWV 995 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727-1731; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/1979 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 20 Minutes 4 Secs. 
16. Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Gustav Leonhardt (Harpsichord)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 04/1979 
Venue:  Museum für Kunst und Bewerbe, Hamburg 
Length: 10 Minutes 29 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Bach; French Suites, Inventions, Italian Concerto June 12, 2012 By Jeff F. (Surprise, AZ) See All My Reviews "The four CD set of Gustav Leonhardt's rendering of these Bach gems on the harpsichord is the best interpretation and listening experience for the listener since Glen Gould! Though, the Italian Concerto could be considered the signature piece within this collection, all the pieces are beautiful. The beautiful counterpoint the fugues portray during the interplay of themes and counterthemes promises a great experience to the appreciater of music. I single out one piece that is awesome and ethereal: that is the first movement (allemande) of the Second French Suite. When I heard this, I stated to myself, "I have to learn that on my piano." I immediately downloaded the sheet music for it and learned it. While reviewing, I'd like to also submit a review of The Canadian Brass Takes Flight. This recording may be the epitome of the genius of the Canadian Brass. They render most exact interpretations to the original musical score of the pieces, especially Bach. The Fugue in G minor is an old favorite, but I loved the Fantasia and fugue in D minor the best. It is simply awesome. I would love to be able to find the musical score to this (originally for organ) online, but to date, have been unsucessful. Perhaps if I knew the BWV catalogue number, it would help. any suggestions welcome." Report Abuse
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook