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CD Review

Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Italian Concerto
  • Four Duets
  • Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue
  • French Overture in B minor
Lucy Carolan, harpsichord
Recorded at St. Paul's School, Hammersmith August 2000
Signum SIGCD030 67:43
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Although Lucy Carolan is challenging in a crowded and competitive field, her new CD must not be ignored. Sometimes I have found Bach on the harpsichord dry and regretted its limitations for sorting out contrapuntal strands, especially in the "48" (I am not into comparative reviewing, but can say that Carolan's instrument (Kennedy after Mietke c.1704)) is sweet-toned and flexible to her rhythmic nuances (more critical when dynamics are relatively fixed) and the whole effect is light, unfussy and, in a word, joyous.

I played it straight through and am anxious to return to share it with others. She has a natural-sounding way to point phrases without exaggeration, based upon a firm pulse underlying her interpretations. Following an evening of Lully and Rameau, I was stuck by how 'frenchified' is the French 'Ouverture', less well known than the Suites and Partitas, and apparently transcribed down from C minor to the much more difficult key of B minor, so Lucy Carolan tells us in her well researched notes, which enhance the pleasure of an affectionately performed, impeccably recorded and produced CD.

The harpsichord/piano debate is constantly before us, with pianists like Glenn Gould, Angela Hewitt and Piotr Anderszewski in hot contention in this repertoire. Readers would not go far wrong by buying Lucy Carolan's new CD and also, for comparison, Angela Hewitt's on a Steinway, recorded in London at around the same time, which includes the Italian Concerto, the Four Duets and the French Overture (Hyperion CDA67306) and which I reviewed enthusiastically; Carolan stands up securely against her currently more fashionable rival.

Copyright © 2002, Peter Grahame Woolf