SEON - RCA Red Seal
1 LP - RL 30391 - (p) 1980
2 CD - SB2K 60375 - (c) 1998


Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Suite in E-flat Major - after Cello Suite No. 4 in E-flat Major, BWV 1010
23' 25" A1

- Prélude · Allemande · Courante · Sarabande · Bourrée I und II · Gigue

Suite in C Minor - after Lute Suite in G Minor, BWV 995
20' 09" B1

- Prélude · Allemande · Courante · Sarabande · Gavotte I und II · Gigue

Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 903
10' 25" B2

- Fantasia · Fuga

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

Luogo e data di registrazione
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (Germany) - Aprile 1979

Registrazione: live / studio

Producer / Recording Supervisor
Wolf Erichson

Recording Engineer

Teije ven Geest

Prima Edizione LP
Seon (RCA Res Seal) | RL 30391 | 1 LP - durata 54' 17" | (p) 1980 | 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 secondo CD le musiche di questa pubblicazione (Seon RCA Red Seal RL 30391) e nel primo CD altre musiche di Bach contenute in altra pubblicazione (Seon Philips 6575 094).

“I have taken infinite pains to find another piece like this one by Bach. But in vain. This fantasia is unique and remains without parallel,” wrote  N. Forkel in 1802 in his treatise on J. S. Bach. Forkel had been sent the “Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue” by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the copy arriving with the following short covering-note attached to it: “Please find enclosed / Some music by Sebastian / Otherwise known as: the Fantasia chromatica: / Keep well in saecula. No other work of Bach's was copied out quite so many times during the composer’s own lifetime as this fantasia. About 25 such copies are still known to us today, the majority of them written by J. S. Bach’s pupils and differing in a number of not insignificant details. Composed probably around 1720, at all events sometime during the Cöthen period, this work was regarded, right up to the time of Mozart, as the supreme example of a free fantasia: the capturing on paper of a spontaneous act of creation, of that free extemporization at the keyboard for which Bach was so highly esteemed by his contemporaries.
As regards intensity of expression, technique, harmony and declamatory style this D minor Fantasia is certainly the boldest of all Bach’s keyboard works. Its fascination is due in the main to the subtly held balance it maintains between freedom of expression on the one hand and formal restriction on the other, between a “fantastic”, emotionally-laden “disorder” on the immediate surface and a carefully planned co-ordination within the hidden structure. The fantasia comprises three formal sections welded together into one whole: two outer toccata-like sections, each with its own individual structural plan, and a middle recitative section consisting of 12 extensive bars of “declaiming” melody and startling harmonic effects, the real nucleus of the work. The eloquence of this central section is a compelling example of Bach’s art of depicting passionate emotion, a deeply personal process which demands of the performer a “re-creating” of the music, and of the listener, too, an intensely felt involvement. The recitative gradually becomes assimilated into the final toccata-like section and the fantasia ends with a five-bar coda of great beauty, with the declaiming voice gradually descending from the highest register, supported by chromatically descending chords of the diminished seventh, until it sinks into the tranquillity and depths of the final major close - a masterpiece of writing, revealing Bach’s genius to the full. In scale and substance the impressive three-part fugue that follows does ample justice to its preceding fantasia. Proceeding from a potent 8-bar subject, thematically related and transparently constructed, to which is immediately added a counter-subject full of rhythmic momentum, the fugue unfolds with, for Bach, surprisingly free treatment of the form, until it reaches a grand climax at the close. After the exposition the subject re-enters only eight times; the repetition of whole sections, the division into main and second subjects, the extensive episodes and the use of full chords lend the movement a distinctly concertante air. The richness of harmony, too, is astonishing. Bach not only modulates within the main subject itself - a unique case not to be found in any other Bach fugue - but also steers the harmony away from its original D minor into keys as remote as B minor. From the psychological point of view, too, the fugue provides the perfect complement to the fantasia: after the tremendous concentration and tension in the opening movement the fugue imtiates a gradual process of relaxation, leading eventually to a final resolving of the conflict.
The Suites in E flat major and C minor have been arranged for harpsichord by Gustav Leonhardt. The C minor Suite is based on the Lute Suite in G minor (BWV 995), itself an adaptation, by J. S. Bach, of his Suite No. V for Violoncello solo (BWV 1011). The E flat major Suite is a direct transcription by Leonhardt of the Suite No. IV for Violoncello (BWV 1010). Since Bach himself has created a precedent, taking such liberties is justifiable, especially when one considers the similarity between the two instrumental styles - harpsichord and lute - at that time.
Furthermore, Bach is thought to have experimented at one point with a so-called “lute-harpsichord”. Composed, in their original form, in Cöthen, the two suites bear marked violoncello characteristics, one could describe them as having “string phrases and steady bass lines”. Both works follow the formal lay-out of the standard baroque suite, with an extra pair of dances inserted before the final movement - in the case of the E flat major Suite 2 bourrées, in the case of the C minor 2 gavottes. Bach opens the E flat major Suite with a spacious prelude of the type very popular around 1700 in organ and harpsichord music, which is characterized by layered triad harmonies. For the C minor Suite, on the other hand, he chooses to write a dramatic, grandiose “French overture”, whose fugal middle section, incidentally, can be more lucidly presented in this harpsichord version than in the original.
Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht
English translation by Avril Watts
Harpsichord - Christian Zell, Hamburg 1728
Length 246 cm, width 93 cm
Exhibited at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 as part of the A. Thibout collection, bearing the false designation “French 17th century”.

In the 17th and 18th centuries Hamburg played a major role in the musical life of Europe. Not least among its musical activities was that of its instrument-makers. Beginning in a small way around the middle of the 17th century the industry became a flourishing concern within a few decades. The quality of the Hamburg instrument-makers’ products soon made their names known far beyond the borders of their own country.
From the period during which Georg
Philipp Telemann and Philipp Emanuel Bach lived and worked in Hamburg we know of fifteen clavichord and harpsichord-makers, the most famous of which were the members of the Fleischer and, above all, the Hass families.
The acquisition of a Hamburg-made harpsichord by the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe has a double significance. Not only is the instrument impressive testimony to Hamburg’s past great age of instrument-making, but it is the work of a Hamburg instrument-maker whose existence up until now has been verifiable only from documents in the local archives. Behind the lid of the instrument there is a small label with the name of the maker and the date of the instrument: “Christian Zell, fecit Ao. 1728 a Hamburg”. Christian Zell (or Zelle), maker of musical instruments, lived in Gänsemarkt and was given the freedom of the city of Hamburg on August 14th, 1722. On September 1st, 1722, he married the widow of the instrument-maker Carl Conrad Fleischer, whose workshop he probably took over. It is not known in which year Christian Zell died. Another harpsichord of his, today in the Museo Municipal de Musica in Barcelona, is dated 1737.
The Zell harpsichord used for this recording has two manuals; its compass is F1 - d'''. The instrument has been restrung once; for the lower notes brass strings have been used, for the upper notes steel. It has three registers: a dark-timbred 4-foot and a dark-timbred 8-foot register on the lower manual, and a bright-sounding 8-foot register on the upper. The 8-foot register on the lower manual has a buff-stop. The strings are plucked by means of plectrums made of ravens’ quills. The keys on the upper manual are overlaid with tortoiseshell, the keys on the lower with ivory.