J.S. Bach: Harpsichord Music in the Grand Manner

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Robert Edward Smith, harpsichord (Eric Herz, Boston 1969) (WLBR 9501)

Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue, BWV 903; Capriccio upon the Departure of his Beloved Brother, BWV 992; Concerto in D after Vivaldi, BWV 972; Six Little Preludes, BWV 933-938; Toccata in D, BWV 912. Tom Lazarus, engineer. Peter Nothnagle, editor. DDD 60’56”.

As far as we can determine, this is the first digital recording of harpsichord performance practice that was familiar in the ’50s and 60s- with sixteen foot stop, pedal activation, and plenty of Sturm und Drang. Definitely not HIP, except in a latter-day sort of way. A very exciting recording, it deserves to be heard and taken seriously on its own terms. For some, this CD will evoke harpsichord performances of long ago- Landowska, Kirkpatrick, Puyana; for others, it will be a revelation, an experience of harpsichord music that is totally new and alive. In test marketing, this CD has “charted” on college radio stations devoted primarily to pop, rock and other youth-oriented forms. Asked to explain this, the Music Director of KALX (UC Berkeley) shrugged his shoulders and said simply, “It’s psychotic.” Smith’s recording was selected as “Radio Pick of the Month” for the August `96 issue of Gramophone.