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GRAMOPHONE (04/2021)
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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

This is the second volume of Bach harpsichord concertos from Francesco Corti and Il Pomo d’Oro, completing the set of seven solo concertos and adding in the Triple Concerto for harpsichord, flute and violin for good measure. In the first volume (7/20) Corti chose those concertos he felt worked better with multiple strings, with convincing results. The ones recorded here are the ones he thinks more suited to solo string accompaniment, and again his musical reasoning seems sound, as the contrapuntal textures of certain movements and passages emerge with heightened clarity and equality, and expressive string-writing benefits from finer detail in line and phrasing. There is also a pleasing chamber-like sense of give and take, shown to greatest effect, perhaps, in the Triple Concerto and the F minor, performed here with a first movement whose measured tread gives it an unusually dark and troubled air, and a slow movement that takes its time to describe one of Bach’s most perfect melodies before diving headlong into a dashing finale which, while lingering to observe the niceties along the way, yet preserves momentum enough to propel itself into a thrilling solo cadenza not in the score.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a personal and distinctive yet at the same time satisfying reading of this gem-like work, and indeed it is a lively freedom of thought that above all characterises all these performances. Without distorting the music, Corti has really treated each concerto on its own merits: to the D major Concerto he cheerfully adds a bassoon to the bass line (where it is by no means obtrusive); in the F minor he experiments boldly with pizzicato effects; and both the F major and the Triple Concerto are delivered at tingling faster-than-average pace.

As in Vol 1, the standard of playing from soloist and orchestra is excellent, and the sound in these difficult-to-balance works is just right, with no lack of body from the single strings yet opportunity aplenty to get acquainted with the chunky but clear tones of Corti’s harpsichord. These are performances of exuberance, intelligence and personality – a likeable way to refresh these familiar works.

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