Richard Lester harpsichord & fortepiano
Nimbus Records NI 5939
Music by J. S. Bach, F. & L. Couperin, Frescobaldi, Handel, Haydn, Luzzaschi, Merulo, Mozart, Paradies, Scarlatti, Seixas, Soler & Sweelinck
Richard Lester’s compilation features some of the most popular pieces for harpsichord and fortepiano, together with some lesser-known ones. He relates his programme to Charles Burney’s journey through Europe in 1766, though his own journey starts much earlier, with Luzzaschi and Merulo. He then passes through Frescobaldi, Sweelinck, Froberger and the Couperins, moving on to Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Seixas, Paradies and Soler, and finishing with Haydn, Soler and Mozart. As such it also represents Lester’s own fifty-year journey through early keyboard music and eight of these tracks have already appeared on Nimbus recordings. He is joined by his daughter Elizabeth on recorder for a couple of Frescobaldi canzonas – some delightful playing by both artists. The keyboard playing is very strong technically and highly assured rhythmically; it comes across as a bit generic, inevitable with such a wide repertory, but there are some highlights like his Froberger Toccata, Sonatas by Scarlatti and Soler, and the Mozart Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je, maman’. Four instruments are featured: a 17th-century Italian copy by Colin Booth, a chamber organ after Antegnati by Antonio Frinelli, a copy of the former Finchcocks Antunes harpsichord by Michael Cole, and the Schantz fortepiano in the Bath Holbourne Museum. This is a welcome disc, which stands as a summation of Lester’s important contribution to the field while providing a good general introduction to early keyboard music on period instruments.