First published in the Guardian on 28 August, 2015
Bach: Harpsichord concertos
JS Bach wrote, or rewrote, seven solo harpsichord concertos. Most of them began life as showpieces for other instruments — violin, oboe d’amore — and occasionally their potted history makes for an awkward conversation between harpsichord and the rest of the band. Not here. Andreas Staier’s grit, flair and expressive freedom plus Freiburg Baroque’s athletic ensemble playing makes these performances bounce and swing. Staier embraces the chunky chordal textures gained over the single-line originals and gives them irresistibly thick, meaty attack: try the last movement of BWV 1058 — better known as the A-minor violin concerto — to see what I mean. His harpsichord is a 10-year-old Parisian instrument modelled on a Hass of 1734 (almost exactly the date of the concertos themselves) and the sound is brawny and dark-hewn, with melodies that sing every bit as much as a bowed or blown instrument.