SEON - Philips
1 LP - 6575 094 - (p) 1978
2 CD - SB2K 60375 - (c) 1998


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Italian Concerto in F Major, BWV 971
13' 39"

- [...] 4' 24"

- Andante 4' 53"

- Presto
4' 22"

Toccata in D Major, BWV 912
12' 23"

- [Presto]
0' 27"

- Allegro 2' 14"

- Adagio 6' 54"

- Fuga 2' 48"

Toccata in D Minor, BWV 913
14' 16"

- [...] 2' 33"

- [Presto]
3' 28"

- Adagio 3' 48"

- Allegro
4' 27"

Fuga in A Minor, BWV 944
6' 21" B5

Fantasia in C Minor, BWV 906

5' 01" B6

Gustav Leonhardt, Harpsichord (Christian Zell, Hamburg, 1728)

Luogo e data di registrazione
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (Germany):
- 1-5 Dicembre 1976 (BWV 971, 912 & 913)
- 6-7 Luglio 1977 (BWV 944 & 906)

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Dieter Thomsen

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (Philips) | 6575 094 | 1 LP - durata 51' 12" | (p) 1978 | ANA

Edizione CD
Sony | SB2K 60375 | 2 CDs - durata 51' 12 - 54' 17" | (c) 1998 | ADD

Original Cover


La riedizione in 2 CD della Sony contiene: nel primo CD le musiche di questa pubblicazione (Seon Philips 6575 094) e nel secondo CD altre musiche di Bach contenute in altra pubblicazione (Seon RCA Red Seal RL 30391).

The term "concerto" is derived from "concertare", meaning to content keenly, to rival, therefore any work so named should consequently require a minimum of two opposing bodies of sound. In view of this, a "concerto for solo piano" is a contradiction in terms, for a solitary pianist can hardly compete with himself. The Late Baroque did not, however, seem unduly concerned about this discrepancy when it inaugurated this rather strange branch of the genre. Bach himself, during his period at Weimar, transcribed, for harpsichord or organ solo, 22 orchestral solo concertos by various leading composers; in other words, like numerous of his contemporaries, he did "piano arrangements". The first ti publish six "concertos" of this type for unaccompanied keyboard had been Christian Ernst Rolle in 1716. The idea immediately caught on and over the next few decades became all the rage, resulting in an absolute flood of such compositions. Bach's "Concerto after the Italian Taste" in F major was included in Part II of the "Clavierübung" published in 1735; the idea behind it was thus not particularly new. What distinguished it from the rest of the current mass production was, however, the quality of its artistic invention and structure. In the two outer movements, which both use the "ritornello" form, Bach simulates the contrast between orchestra and solo instrument with the alternating "grosso" and "concertino" effects. Specifically intended to be performed on a two-manual harpsichord, the score is marked "forete" and "piano" at the appropriate passages to indicate the two contesting parties. In the final movement the five tutti passages and the four solo ones are contrasted relatively distinctly. In the opening movement, on the other hand, the opposing forces, after an initial confrontation, tend to combine and interact more and more as the movement proceeds. On closer consideration it will be realised that this interweaving of the thematic material and its ensuing modification and development is likewise a characteristic feature of Bach's "real" solo concertos woth orchestral accompaniment: there, as here, he has the two bodies of sound work with, rather than against, each other, achieving thereby a unity and compactness of unusual force. The expressive middle movement in D minor, too, is a perfect whole. Over a kind of ostinato bass, a melody that sounds as if it could have been taken from a violin concerto unfolds, richly decorated, saturated with appoggiaturas, and dominated by the interval of the seventh. At once agitated and brooding, the style of this movement, too goes far beyond anything merely Italianate. Bach's two keyboard toccatas in D minor and D major (BWV 912 and 913), together with five others, were probably written in Weimar some time before 1710. It is likely that simpler examples of this form had already been attempted when Bach was at Arnstadt. All seven works are of a turbulent, passionate nature. Their form freely constructed and rhapsodic, their harmony and melody bold and sweeping, they bear colourful testimony to Bach's youthful "Sturm und Drang" phase. The two toccatas recorded here have several features in common: vehement, single-voiced openings - in the D minor work sounding like a great pedal solo on the organ, a several-sectioned form involving frequent changes of tempo, and extensive fugues to finish with. The subjects of these final fugues are not yet "characteristic", as they tended to be later in the "Well-Tempered Clavier", and the counterpoint supplied is constant - a method that Bach in his mature fugues no longer employed. In the D minor Toccata the composer includes a long fugue directly after the opening section, whereas in the D major Toccata the corresponding Allegro section is only slightly fugal. Of particular interest are the two Adagio sections, wide-ranging and contrapuntally meticulously worked out. Modelling himself to a certain extent on Buxtehude, Bach, in these formative years, for a time obviously considered this alternation between movement and calm, between the strictly formal and a free construction void of any strong underlying coherence, to be the ideal form of passionate musical utterance. The fugue in A minor (BWV 944), which Bach re-arranged for organ later in Leipzig (BWV 543), clearly dates from the Cöthen period. The piece opens with a brief fantasia in arpeggios. The fugue subject itself, propelled along by an unbroken flow of semiquavers, extends over a full 8 bars and requires 198 bars to complete its treatment - making it, barwise, the longest keyboard fugue Bach ever wrote! Charging forward indefatigably, the fugue, for all its uniformity, is anything but monotonous, especially as there are four relatively long episodes consisting of broken chords by contrast. Building up to a grand final climax which gradually ascends from the profoundest of depths, the impressive work comes to a close.
The Fantasia in C minor (BWV 906) betrays the masterly hand of the mature Bach of the period around 1738. unfortunately, its companion fugue, endowed with many a bold, sophisticated harmonic device, has survived onsly as a fragment and is consequently not performable. Only 40 bars long (with both sections repeated the total is 80), the piece is fashioned in the most compact manner and has a remarkably precisely proportioned structure. Like many other of his late works this piece, too, bears witness to Bach's quite incredible power of mental concentration. Yet at the same time it is an extremely lively piece of music. The resolute, rhythmically sharply contoured main theme, bursting with energy, is contrasted with a tuneful second subject which, toward the end, radiates a cantabile quality of quite captivating charm. There is a middle section, rather like a development section, which is of similar lenght to the exposition and which modulates extensively. Following on this comes the recapitulation, altered only very slightly, but half the lenght of the exposition. For conciseness and musical content it is a piece hard to surpass.

Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht
English translation by Avril Watts