Toccata from Claudio Merulo to Johann Sebastian Bach

Andrea Buccarella harpsichord
Ricercar RIC 407

This young harpsichordist was the winner of the Musica Antiqua Bruges competition in 2018, resulting in this, his first recording. He has chosen a stimulating programme which traces the development of the toccata from Claudio Merulo to J. S. Bach, via Sweelinck, Frescobaldi, Froberger, Buxtehude and others. In the process he shows how enduring the genre was while pointing up each composer’s individual style. This is helped by his use of four different harpsichords: small and large Italian-style instruments for the earlier repertory, a Hans Ruckers double-manual copy for Weckmann, Buxthude and Reincken, and a John Heinrich Gräbner copy for Bach. He uses flexible tempi and emphasises the improvisatory quality of much of the music, while never losing the pulse. Among his fine performances I was struck by Giovanni Picchi’s toccata from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book and that by Michelangelo Rossi with its adventurous chromatic scales – but all have aspects of interest. Bach’s D major toccata (BWV 912) is given a masterly execution which brings out the composer’s youthful exuberance, particularly in an almost aggressive approach to the opening flourishes. Recording quality is excellent, with the instruments given a close-up presence, while Buccarella’s informative sleeve notes help enlighten the listening experience. This is a highly-assured debut and I look forward to hearing more.

Noel O’Regan

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