BACH Harpsichord Concertos – Cuiller
This is an outstanding recital of Bach chamber-music playing in which four concertos (Stradivaria could have fitted in one more, in truth) bask in their own colours with a rare combination of infectious energy, quicksilver alertness among a single-string ensemble and not a hint of the affectedness which has blighted so many performances of these works in recent years.
Bertrand Cuiller plays his red-blooded harpsichord (a copy of an anonymous French instrument) with dazzling virtuosity, wit and lyricism, each of the players seeming unusually responsive to the soloist’s inflections. Take the D minor, whose outer movements are mesmerisingly gilded by Cuiller and his colleagues, where the Adagio – often anonymously delivered – is shaped with compelling coherence and pungency.
The G minor Concerto (a later adaptation of the A minor Violin Concerto) is not often performed in this pragmatic transcription but here, and in the more intimate and familiar exchanges of the F minor (BWV1056, and only surviving in this form), rhythmic character and well judged embellishment spring effusively from strong and directed bass-lines. There is an authority, too, in the ringing tenderness of the second movement of the G minor, whose bittersweet affekt is underpinned by an exquisite “heavy laden” rhetorical accentuation. If the intonation is a touch “gamey” here, and perhaps a little less acceptably in the equivalent point in the A major, nothing can detract from the thoughtfulness, personality and fun which radiate from this wonderful recital.