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GRAMOPHONE (01/2021)
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Reviewer: Patrick Rucker

Harpsichordist, organist and conductor Francesco Corti is a native of Arezzo and now teaches at the Basel Schola Cantorum. Despite a large and diverse discography, his broadest exposure of late may be as a featured soloist in the Netherlands Bach Society’s ‘All of Bach’ project on YouTube. His new recording draws on several sources – two anthologies of Bach’s eldest brother, Johann Christoph; the ‘little keyboard books’ Bach prepared for his eldest son and for his second wife; and a manuscript of harpsichord and organ pieces compiled for Johann Tobias Krebs – to create an intimate portrait both of the young composer and the mature master en famille. The programme is richly varied and the engaging performances never less than superb.

In both large-scale dance suites, the Telemann Ouverture in a transcription presumed to be by Bach himself and the Fourth French Suite, Corti exhibits an uncommonly firm grasp on the character of the various dances. Sample the blissful Courante and jaunty Gigue in the French Suite or the pair of Bourrées in the Telemann for splendid examples of Baroque dances manifest in all their individuality on the keyboard.

The implacably serious Prelude, Fugue, and Postlude by the Lüneburg organist Georg Böhm is delivered with incandescent pomp and bravura. Corti’s transition to Couperin, the only French composer on the programme, is effortless, with the B flat rondeau ‘Les Bergeries’ from the sixth ordre evoking perfectly delineated Gallic sensibilities and gestures. Most striking is the loving performance of the Capriccio on the Departure of His Beloved Brother. The tenderness of separation, anticipation of travel’s potential dangers, efforts to persuade the traveller to stay, arrival of the post-chaise and, eventually, a joyful send-off are portrayed with ineluctable finesse and sensitivity. Moreover, Corti is able to convey this quintessentially youthful music with a persuasive candour and open-hearted enthusiasm that, I suspect, will surely spoil a few other recordings.

Corti plays a 1998 replica by the Milanese builder Andrea Restelli of a 1738 Hanoverian instrument by Christian Vater. Erudition and virtuosity take back seat to the sheer pleasure of music-making in one of the most enjoyable Baroque recitals I’ve heard in a very long time.


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