Bach: Concertos for Harpsichord, Vol. 2 / Masato Suzuki, Bach Collegium Japan

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The concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach for solo harpsichord and strings are some of the earliest, if not the very first, keyboard concertos. In all...

The concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach for solo harpsichord and strings are some of the earliest, if not the very first, keyboard concertos. In all likelihood Bach wrote them for his own use (or that of his talented sons) – probably to be performed with Leipzig’s Collegium Musicum. The concertos’ fresh and exuberant character reflects how much Bach enjoyed the opportunity to engage with his fellow musicians, a quality that also came across on Masato Suzuki’s first installment of Bach's harpsichord concertos together with his colleagues in Bach Collegium Japan: ‘sparkling performances... [Suzuki’s] remarkable virtuosity is beautifully projected by BIS’s excellent SACD recording’ (MusicWeb-International). Despite how idiomatic they may sound, many of Bach’s harpsichord concertos are almost certainly transcriptions of earlier works written for other instruments. Of the works presented on this second volume, BWV 1054 and BWV 1058 are adaptations of violin concertos composed while the composer was living in Cöthen. The model for BWV 1055 has been lost but it is believed to be a concerto for oboe or viola d’amore. BWV 1057, finally, is an adaptation of the well-known Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, transposed down one step but retaining the original’s two recorders. As examples of musical recycling, these works display Bach’s uncanny ability to re-use successful music ideas and give them a new meaning and significance.


Masato Suzuki proves an ideal keyboard soloist, balancing moments of zestful virtuosity with some elegant inequality in the passagework. Willem Kroesbergen’s copy of a contemporary Couchet harpsichord on which he plays is characterful with a pleasing range of timbre; and throughout, in these well-recorded performances, it blends attractively with the other instruments.

Nearly all Bach’s harpsichord concertos are arrangements of earlier works composed for entertainments in the relaxed environment of Gottfried Zimmermann’s Leipzig coffee house and garden where they were directed by the composer, presumably with a number of his sons as soloists. Two of the concertos recorded here are versions of Bach’s two familiar violin concertos, a third is of Brandenburg Concerto No. 4, and the charming A major concerto derives from a concerto for oboe d’amore.

Unsurprisingly, with its appropriately modest orchestral forces, the Bach Collegium Japan goes in for brisk tempos, but without any sense of rushing or impatience. A prime example is the first movement of the D major Concerto, with carefully considered phrasing and excellent timing from the orchestra matched by dazzling harpsichord solo playing.

-- BBC Music Magazine

Product Description:

  • Release Date: July 01, 2022

  • UPC: 7318599924816

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2481

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: Baroque

  • Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach

  • Conductor: Masato Suzuki

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bach Collegium Japan

  • Performer: Masato Suzuki, Masato Suzuki