Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Fantasia and Fugue in a,
Francesco Cera (hpd)
ARTS 47738 (2 Hybrid multichannel SACDs: 132:47)
The old adage that Italy only produces one great pianist a generation has finally been put to rest by the astonishing proliferation in recent decades of front-rank Italian keyboard-players, pianists, and harpsichordists. In fact two Italians, Ottavio Dantone and Francesco Cera, should make any short list of most interesting harpsichordists before the public today. Cera’s new recording of Bach’s six
is without doubt one of the finest available. As the icing on this interpretive cake, Arts Music has lavished unusual care in engineering so that Cera’s Roberto Livi harpsichord (Pesaro 2006, after a 1691 instrument by Vincent Tibaut) is captured in all its variegated brilliance.
Given that the vast majority of harpsichord music is for ensemble, most contemporary harpsichordists devote significant energies to ensemble playing in addition to cultivating the solo literature. Cera is no exception. Following a long association with Il Giardino Armonico, he has directed the Ensemble Arte Musica since 1997. His understanding of the Baroque orchestral medium is clearly second nature, informing his approach to these dance suites. Many movements unfold with all the textural richness and color of a concerto grosso. Cera’s stylistic grasp is equally impressive. He misses no opportunity to embellish repeats, and does so with the greatest imagination and a seeming spontaneity that is always perfectly characteristic of the particular dance. But the greatest single factor in the success of these performances is Cera’s sense of proportion. Phrases are deftly shaped with an unerring sense of what may be sung. Tempos are never rushed and always inextricably linked to the underlying dance pulse. The individual dances themselves are paced so perfectly that, in succession, the entire suite is lent a cohesion and structural progression rarely encountered in performances of Baroque music. However arresting a particular detail may be, the listener never loses his bearings within the overall structure of the movement. The recording is rounded out with a sparkling
that fairly bursts with the evocations of orchestral color alluded to above. If I were to quibble with anything in this more than two hours of music it would be that the deliberative tempos of the A-Minor
Fantasy and Fugue
seem a little sluggish.
Nevertheless, this is Bach interpretation on a very high level. Among recent recordings of the
, only Christophe Rousset’s superb, though very different, performances (Naïve 9960) seem comparable. For stylistic mastery, for vital, full-blooded Bach-playing that sings and dances, and for sheer pleasure of listening, this one shouldn’t be missed.
FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
Works on This Recording
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Francesco Cera (Harpsichord)
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany
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