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GRAMOPHONE (05/2020)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

The American harpsichordist Jory Vinikour has been working his way through the core repertoire for his instrument – the complete Rameau, the Handel suites and Bach’s toccatas, partitas and Goldberg Variations, that sort of thing – and has never failed to make a good job of it. Now he turns to the two great pieces from the second volume of Bach’s ClavierÜbung, which is to say the Italian Concerto and the Overture in the French Style, to which he adds the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and a relative rarity, the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV894, made even rarer by the insertion between them of an Andante Bach himself arranged from the third movement of the Second Solo Violin Sonata. This last addition is a canny one: not only does it impart some life and warmth to two of Bach’s most dogged pieces (he later pepped them up by turning them into the outer movements of the Concerto for flute, violin and harpsichord), but there is also a tiny wisp of a melodic link between the Prelude and the Andante.

No doubt it is the orchestral nature of the two Clavier-Übung pieces that has caused Vinikour to select the brawny, feisty harpsichord he uses here, modelled after a 1738 instrument by the Hanover-based maker Christian Vater. It makes a rattlingly bold, almost brassy sound in the ‘tutti’ sections of the Concerto and brings imposing grandeur to the first movement of the French Overture, but there are times, especially in gentler movements such as the Concerto’s dreamy Adagio, when one could wish that it were a little less zingy, and the textures cleaner as a result. Vinikour’s playing, however, is both lively and stylish, and in the dotted first section of the Overture and the rippling arpeggios of the Chromatic Fantasy in particular he shows a sure touch for pace and flow, for where to hesitate and where to push on. If you want more elegance and a sweeter harpsichord sound in these pieces you could try Christophe Rousset (Decca), or for more magic Scott Ross (Erato). But Vinikour, in his way, can certainly hold his own.

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