Music Web

J. S. Bach – Keyboard Concertos

Zane Turner

Among the purists are those who have a strong preoccupation with “authentic” musical performance. Music must be performed only on instruments relative to the period of composition; embellishments and repeats must be executed to the letter. Other than that initiated by the composer, transcription and adaptation for disparate instruments is frowned upon. If you are of such a disposition this recording may not be for you because it embraces much of the above and to “rub salt into wounds” even incorporates the dubbing of musical instruments! If your love of music is less restrained by such barriers and limitations this recording will bestow much enjoyment.

The genius of J.S. Bach requires no confirmation or affirmation but recordings such as this are a constant reminder. Bach was a master of adaptation and re-arrangement and it is difficult to conceive his disapproval of competent adaptations of works such as the unaccompanied cello suites for viola and classical guitar. It is through the art of the transcriber that we are able to enjoy old familiar friends in new guises. In some instances the results may exceed the original! Albéniz is purported to have expressed preference for guitar transcriptions by Tarréga over his originals for piano.

In the main the programme presented on this disc has its genesis in re-arrangement and adaptation. It comprises three concertos for two harpsichords, BWV1060. 1061, 1062 and BWV 1063 for three harpsichords. Only 1061 was written for two harpsichords and strings (1061(a) is an original version for harpsichords only). The others are all adaptations e.g. 1062 was taken from the popular concerto for two violins in D Minor; 1060 will be readily recognized as the concerto for oboe, violin and strings.

Some may claim that the use of pianos as a substitute for harpsichords is a loss rather than a gain. Sir Thomas Beecham probably would not have concurred, having once referred to the sound of the harpsichord as reminding him of “two skeletons copulating on a tin roof.” This writer does not share the same degree of antipathy, but here the piano is no compromise and facilitates a greater degree of expression, particularly in slow passages. As to the degree of loss/gain this is a subjective call – listen to the Christopher Hogwood versions of BWV 1060 and 1062 for harpsichord on L’Oiseau-Lyre 421500-2.

The twin sisters Güher and Süher Pekinel are recognised internationally as keyboard artists of high calibre. Born in Istanbul they first appeared in public at the age of six. They were discovered by Herbert von Karajan in 1984 and subsequently invited to the Salzburg Festival to which they often return.

Notes that accompany this disc refer to their general performances as “demonstrating extraordinary musicality, keyboard command and unanimity of style and execution”. This particular performance epitomises all those musical virtues. It can be enthusiastically recommended to provide 56 minutes of musical pleasure to all except maybe the “pre-occupied purist”.