Benjamin Alard Happily Performs Bach

Benjamin Alard’s chronological traversal of Bach’s harpsichord music continues. Volume 9 features music written while Johann Sebastian Bach was in Köthen. This album is subtitled “Köthen, 1717-1723 – The Happy Years.” And rightly so. 

Leopold, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen, was a keen musician and appreciated Bach’s talents. Bach was Leopold’s Kapellmeister and could give his musical creativity free reign. This album features some of those efforts, including the English Suites and the Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major.

Alard plays a 1740 triple-manual harpsichord made by Hieronymus Albrecht Hass. The instrument has five sets of strings and six registers. This allows Alard a great deal of expressive leeway.  The instrument can deliver dramatic changes in volume. Different registers have different timbres, providing contrast for contrapuntal passages.

And the recorded sound of the instrument is remarkably clean. There’s no rattling of loose parts, no clack of keys. Just the sound of the plucked string. That pure sound is ideal for Alard’s masterful playing. 

His technique seems flawless. And his choice of string and register combinations elevate these performances to a different plane. The music is as expressive as if played on a piano — only in a more style-appropriate manner. 

A solid addition to this excellent series. 

Johann Sebastian Bach: The Complete Works for Keyboard, Vol. 9
Köthen, 1717-1723 – The Happy Years
Benjamin Alard, harpsichord
Marc Mauillon, baritone
Sien Huybrechts, flauto traverso; Anne Pekkala & Paul Monteiro, violinss; Samantha Montgomery, viola; Ronan Kernoa, bass violin
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902472.73
2 CD set

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