Leonhardt Creates Magic at the Keyboard

alpha-317

BACH BULL BYRD GIBBONS HASSLER PACHELBEL RITTER STROGERS / HASSLER: Canzon. STROGERS: Fantasia, FVB 1. BYRD: Corranto; Queens Alman; Ground. BULL: Bull’s Goodnight. GIBBONS: Fantasia, MB 11. PACHELBEL: Fantasia; Toccata in G. J.C. BACH: Praeludium. RITTER: Allemanda in Discessum Caroli XI Regis Sueciæ. J.S. BACH*: Fantasia, BWV 1121; Aria Variata, BWV 989; Partite Sopra, “O Gott, du Frommer Gott,” BWV 767 / Gustav Leonhardt, clavirorganum/*harpsichord / Alpha 317

This reissue of recordings made in 1995 (J.S. Bach) and 2001 (the others) capture perfectly the exquisite qualities that the late Gustav Leonhardt brought to his many keyboard performances: an organic view of the music, elegance, and deep feeling all rolled into one. He was, in my view, the unquestioned giant of early keyboard music in an era that seemed to be overflowing with such musicians.

claviorganum-at-barcelone-museum

Claviorganum at the Museum of Music in Barcelona

The bulk of this album was recorded on the claviorganum, also known as the clavecin, combined the qualities of a harpsichord with an organ, an instrument that was particularly popular in England in the 18th century. Leonhardt brings out the very best in the instrument, combining the singing qualities of the organ portion with the snappy plucking of the harpsichord part to produce music that is at once elegant and charming. He had such a miraculous touch at the instrument that, until we reach Orlando Gibbons’ Fantasia in band 7, which is played almost exclusively on the “organ side” of the instrument, only the most careful listeners will be aware that the sustaining sound we hear in the first six tracks stem from the same source. In the eighth track, Pachelbel’s Fantasia (thank God we don’t get the overplayed Canon!), he almost completely ignores the organ side of the instrument to provide us with almost a pure harpsichord sound.

Perhaps the only drawback to this CD is that so many pieces here are of a slow and meditative nature, which tends to wear on the listener after a while, but this may not be Leonhardt’s fault but rather that of the programmer of the CD. Certainly, insofar as the performance quality goes there is nothing to complain of. This is a wonderful disc for meditation since Leonhardt is so completely into the music that he creates a lovely aura for such activity almost without trying to. Well recommended, particularly for admirers of this wonderful musician.

— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley

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