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 GRAMOPHONE (08/2013)
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Reviewer: Jed Distler

Yates and her Garlick play Bach’s Vivaldi arrangements

Sophie Yates offers eight of Bach’s 16 Weimarperiod concerto transcriptions in performances that outclass most of the catalogue competition. In contrast to the more robust-sounding instruments used by Elizabeth Farr (Naxos) and Peter Watchorn (Hänssler) in their Bach concerto transcription cycles, Yates favours an Andrew Garlick harpsichord modelled after a French 1748 Goujon instrument, whose lighter, more transparent sonorities more subtly differentiate the music’s solo and ensemble textures. At times one might miss Watchorn’s tonal heft and tasteful agogics, yet Yates’s crisp, direct interpretations satisfy more consistently than Farr’s relatively mannered playing.


Compare, for example, Yates’s ebullient treatment of the famous main theme of the first movement of the C major Concerto (BWV976) with the way it alternately lurches ahead or lags behind in Farr’s hands. Watchorn’s rhythmically stiff reading of the Gigue of the G minor Concerto (BWV975) also yields to Yates’s swiftly singing version. Notice, too, how Yates embellishes the opening Adagio of the C minor Concerto (BWV981; not a transcription of Vivaldi but of Benedetto Marcello) while her slow basic pulse remains firm yet never rigid. Her finely honed legato technique shines in slow movements: one telling instance occurs in the C major Largo of BWV976 (based on Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico, Op 3 No 12), where Yates’s slight finger overlapping between note attacks and releases create a sense of sustained resonance that justifies her measured pace. Yates’s informative, well-written notes complement the stylish sensitivity of her harpsichord artistry, together with Chandos’s vivid, realistic sound. Let’s hope that the remaining eight Bach concerto transcriptions with Yates are on the horizon.


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