JS BACH Keyboard Concertos Nos 1,2,4 & 5 (Bonizzoni)
There is a pleasing quality to Fabio Bonizzoni’s first volume of Bach harpsichord concertos, which achieves the difficult task of combining subtle artifice and interpretative joie de vivre with a manner that appears on the surface natural and uncomplicated. In Bach that’s a pretty good balance to have.
Bonizzoni does not rush at the allegros but allows them time to speak clearly, an important attribute in a harpsichord concerto, where too much scurrying runs the risk of rendering the solo part an indecipherable clatter in which, while you may be able to hear that the notes are there, the actual pitch of them can be lost. Sound balance is crucial too in this, and here the recording has got it just right, with a tangy harpsichord sound properly audible but with the single strings still able to play out and express themselves without restriction. In this it reminds me of the first recordings I knew of these works, made in the 1960s by the Leonhardt Consort.
Yet there is more to them than that, for Bonizzoni’s playing is alive with well-judged and nourishing detail, whether it be plentiful but always pertinent ornamentation, telling rubato or energising articulation. Perhaps the slow movements of the A major (BWV1055) and E major (BWV1053) concertos could have relaxed the tempo a little more, and perhaps the recording is a little bass-clouded; but these things do not stop these from being immensely enjoyable and invigorating performances.
It is not clear whether this is part of a project to record the seven solo harpsichord concertos (in which case only one more disc will be needed) or whether the concertos for two, three and four harpsichords are planned as well. But the fact that he has here chosen the four concertos that are ‘real’ in the sense that they only survive in their harpsichord versions, rather than in their original forms, makes it as enticing on a practical level as for its considerable musical strengths.