Towards the end of his life, Johann Sebastian Bach made a second collection of concertos, these for keyboard. Around 1738 he put this together, possibly as a way of publicizing his work with the Leipzig Collegium , or possibly with an eye towards publishing them. The six works are all somewhat eclectic since they seem to have been transcriptions of works for other instruments, as the informative booklet notes by soloist Aapo Häkkinen state. There are other sources in the Bach archives, so how he put them together can more or less be traced, and in recording these, Häkkinen and his Helsinki Baroque Orchestra have decided that they would be split into two volumes.
In 2012, too, there are prominent treasures to be found: Aapo Häkkinen plays Bach’s Concertos for solo harpsichord and strings – the crown jewels of the harpsichord and piano literature – on a 16’ harpsichord, that is to say, an instrument with an additional, very low sounding register. Although Bach probably used a similar harpsichord himself, this is the first recording of this cycle of works on an instrument of this kind built in a historical manner!
"His interpretation of appoggiaturas in the Aria is likely to raise a few eyebrows, and not everyone will like the adoption of a chirpy and most unmajestic staccato in the French overture. But I do hope he does not lose the pertness he shows in Var. 27 and the crisp humour of his Var. 22; and the extra embellishments he allows himself on repeats are remembering Koopman's distractingly fussy ornaments on Erato/RCA) neat and natural-sounding." Grammophone, October 1989
After recording the complete solo fortepiano works of Haydn, it was inevitable that Ronald Brautigam would record the complete fortepiano concertos of Haydn. Of course, it helps that while Haydn's complete solo fortepiano works take up 11 discs, his complete fortepiano concertos take up only a single disc, so Brautigam could record it before moving on to record the inevitable complete fortepiano music of Beethoven. On its own, Brautigam's recording of Haydn's concertos is wonderful: light, bright, ebullient, full of humanity, and suffused with poetry. Brautigam's tone is clear but ringing, his touch is graceful but powerful, his interpretations characterful but self-effacing.
In this 3rd volume, Zacharias’ Mozart becomes essential, if not quintessential, in a universe for piano & concerto that is fascinating. The Concerto for Piano & Orchestra #17 in G major KV 453 dates from 1784, & inspired the musician Alfred Einstein to say: “In a friendly key are hidden many mysterious smiles & painful wounds – words cannot be found to describe the permanent irisation of feelings in the 1st movement, the passionate interiority of the 2nd.”
The sound world of Bach’s last great Mass has changed radically in recent decades; one-to-a-part performance practice is, as conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen puts it, “changing our entire notion of Bach’s acoustic universe”. This bold claim is amply proven in an account of dazzling transparency, dance-like rhythms and utter clarity. Sometimes the balance seems not quite right, for example when organ continuo dominates, but some superb ensemble numbers pit voices against virtuosic instruments so each seems to outdo the other in joyous exuberance. The five soloists complement each other well, and the addition of just five extra singers is all that is needed to explode Bach’s universal vision into life.