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CD Review


Keyboard Music in Germany before Bach

  • Johann Jakob Froberger:
  • Toccata VI in A minor
  • Ricercar VI in F Sharp minor
  • Suite I in E minor
  • Ricercar IV in G Major
  • Suite VI in C Major
  • Georg Böhm: Praeludium in G minor
  • Johann Kuhnau: Death and Burial of Jacob (the last of the six Biblical Sonatas)
Gavin Black, harpsichord
Recorded on June 6, 1994 in New York City,
Produced and Engineered by Gabe M. Wiener
PGM Recordings 101 63:51
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One of the principal characteristics of middle Baroque music is that a great deal is left unspecified in the written score. The performer of these works takes on the responsibility of bringing the music to life by filling in the gaps with personal interpretation, just as a contemporary jazz musician does when playing standards. Gavin Black, in the liner notes to this recording, shows that he understands this concept. It is disappointing that his playing is so careful that he largely fails to deliver what he promises.

The difficulties come from two factors: the choice of mainly slow and mournful works, and an excessively cautious, even reverential, style of playing. Most of these pieces are meant to be played slowly. Black seldom moves faster than moderato, and at times seems to stop altogether. He claims to find great spiritual depth in these works, but does not manage to convey much more than caution. His rhythms are almost always square, flat, and lifeless. Opportunities for emphasis by means of subtle changes in tempo are missed. Ornaments are used sparingly. The score is taken too literally.

One need only listen to Gustav Leonhardt or Colin Tilney in this repertoire to see how it is possible to shape phrases and add ornaments without in any way disturbing the severe and sombre moods of these works.

PGM's recording is clear and accurate. The instrument has a light, delicate tone, which tends to emphasise the hesitant approach of the performer. Detailed technical specifications are provided, including recommended sound pressure levels in the listening area for optimum reproduction.

Copyright © 1997, Paul Geffen