Two hundred years of harpsichord music
Linn Records CKD570
Bull, Byrd, Cabezón, Frescobaldi, Handel, D. Scarltti, Sweelinck & Tallis
This recording represents more than one journey: there is Pinnock’s own musical odyssey of over forty years, played on a harpsichord which has accompanied him for all of that time (a Hemsch copy made by David Jacques Way); there is the journey implied in the CD’s subtitle: ‘two hundred years of harpsichord music’. In his lucid liner notes John Butt points to other journeys too: the emergence of keyboard music as a genre in its own right and the parallel development of distinct instruments on which to play it. Pinnock has chosen a programme ranging from variations by Cabezón, Byrd, Tallis, Bull and Sweelinck, through some Frescobaldi to Bach’s 6th French Suite and Handel’s extended Chaconne in G, and finishing with Scarlatti’s K490-92 Sonatas. He includes pieces which would be on many harpsichordists’ desert island list, though oddly enough nothing from France. Stylistic distinctions inevitably get a bit smoothed out in this grand sweep on a single instrument. but what we get in return is a real sense of how the harpsichord’s potential has been harnessed by successive generations.
Pinnock’s strongest suite is his rhythmic precision and impeccable sense of timing which brings out the relentless logic of the Bach and Handel, or of Scarlatti’s K490 Sonata. Pinnock’s contribution to our understanding of baroque music has been immense; I can still remember my own shock and awe moment on first hearing his English Concert playing Purcell back in 1982. The youthful sparkle might not be so visible in Matthias Tarn’s recent photo of Pinnock in the CD booklet, but there is no dimming in the exuberance of his playing.