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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

Two Faces of Genius

  • Concerto or Toccata for Harpsichord, in G Major, BWV 916
  • Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903
  • Concerto in Italian Taste in F Major, BWV 971
  • Overture in the French Manner in B minor, BWV 831
Linda Burman-Hall, harpsichord
Produced and Engineered by Gregory Squires
Harpsichord attributed to Michael Mietke,
copied 1983 by William Dowd
Tuning by Russell Brown,
historical well temperaments at a = 392
Recorded at University of California, Santa Cruz
Musicians Showcase MS 1086 63m
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This is a new recording entering a very crowded and competitive market. You can judge it at its best from the French Overture. I rather preferred the French to the Italian items; there is a real dance feeling in Linda Burman-Hall's rendering of the character dances which make up most of this major work. Not in question at all is L B-H's technical authority; hers are the fleetest of fingers, and there are some delightful sallies into quite extravagant and virtuosic ornamentation.

I enjoyed the programme as a whole moderately well; I found some of the fast movements a little relentless and uninflected, but that has to be a matter of choice, and Linda Burman-Hall is an experienced specialist representative of Canada's flourishing H.I.P. (historically informed performance) movement - she has certainly read more books about Bach playing than I have! Her notes explore Bach's eventual fusion of French and Italian elements and how he never neglects his basic concept of the keyboard player as virtuoso soloist.

Another passing doubt; my first reaction was that the studio recording was a little dry and over-close - though that depended greatly upon through which of my several CD players I was using. I find increasingly that criticising engineering and recording is a minefield, and mostly confine myself there to matters of balance in concerted performance.

Linda Burman-Hall is particularly good at devising unique mixed programmes, and I look forward to her coming releases of French Harpsichord, Lute and Organ Music in the Salon of Louis XIV and Heinrich Schütz: A Musical Portrait

Copyright © 2004, Peter Grahame Woolf