Johann Sebastian Bach
Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV 1052


5.0
classic

Review

by SirArthur6 USER (8 Reviews)
January 10th, 2013 | 11 replies


Release Date: 1735 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bach delivers perfection... with a side-serving of awesomeness.

The harpsichord was a popular instrument in the western classical tradition for only a couple of hundred years before being outmoded by the vastly superior piano, and it’s easy to see why. The difficulty of controlling dynamics, the quick fade of sound and plucky timbre gave way to a much smoother sound, and mechanics allowing easier sustainability and full, immediate control of dynamics. However, one could argue that, irrelevant of the quality the platform provides, all that really matters is the quality of the creative content. How many gaming companies rely on inferior sequels of far superior games made on superseded consoles? The harpsichord became a neglected instrument… but it had its era when great composers were composing for it, and amongst those great composers was one of the greatest: Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach made the most of the harpsichord’s clunky sound, the clarity of sound available from the lack of sustainability and gave this now antique instrument its due with his stunning first concerto for harpsichord in d minor.

The first movement starts with a dramatic opening theme in a minor key, enthralling the listener with a dark and memorable passage that repeats with variation between many hysterical frenzies of skilful harpsichord madness. It’s here that Bach utilises the plucky timbre of the harpsichord to create brilliant suspense through lightning-fast ornamentations and dissonance whilst the underlying strings add to the tension. After a section in the major key to give the listener a breather, Bach plummets the listener back into flares of contrapuntal complexity, packed with thrills and trills as the harpsichord and accompanying strings fight for attention - eventually compromising to end the movement as one with the final statement of the original theme.

The second movement brings down the pace from the hectic first movement, and also presents a change in texture as well. With all instruments moving at the same time, Bach maintains a solemn progression between all instruments before allowing the harpsichord to play a melancholic, mournful melody on top of the grieving viols. The steady minor progressions persist throughout the movement with sparse major inflections giving the piece some hope before being snatched back into gloom and despair. Whilst maintaining this beautifully sorrowful atmosphere throughout the movement, Bach remembers to give the harpsichord intricate flourishes and haunting melodies, keeping it very much the centre of attention.

The third and final movement is based around the first in structure and harmony. It revisits the drama of the first movement, but by using different melodic and rhythmic ideas, doesn't sound at all recycled, but rather fittingly rounds off the concerto with class. Often the strings will wander off whilst the harpsichord dexterously lets off steam, giving way to pure polyphonic goodness. After some thumping rhythms and the harpsichord working up and down its range faster than a speeding yo-yo, the strings and harpsichord finally come together for a quick and succinct conclusion.

Here, Bach produces a piece perfectly designed for harpsichord, which simply wouldn't sound anywhere near as good on the ‘more advanced’ piano. Even if the harpsichord has had its time, it certainly isn't forgotten because of the greatness of compositions (such as this one) made for its awkward dynamics and unique tone; and with the ingenuity of composers like Bach, remains a recognisable instrument to those keen on classical.



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user ratings (9)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
SirArthur6
January 10th 2013


177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The hardest part of this review was deciding what to put in the summary box. I went through ‘Bach >
You’, ‘If you don’t listen to this now that you’re reading this then you are a bad person’, ‘Sputnik
is a bad place considering how few ratings this has’...

SirArthur6
January 10th 2013


177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I should have put if you think this review is going to be funny then you're baching up the wrong
tree...

Buzzkillr
January 10th 2013


1541 Comments


Shouldn't you also review the interpret, or is the interpretation not important for you?

SirArthur6
January 10th 2013


177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

When this is being listed as by 'Johann Sebastian Bach' the most important thing is the composition of the piece - because that's what Bach did. Yes, I'm listening to an interpretation of a piece, but like most classical performances isn't tainted much by artistic licence (although there's bound to be some) as they're playing from composer written score, and so reviewing the specific interpretation doesn't seem as important for me.

CaptainDooRight
January 10th 2013


29132 Comments


enjoyed the read, pos

Digging: Kangding Ray - Solens Arc

NightmareCinema16
January 10th 2013


2016 Comments


Another nice classical review. POS. I should definately hear this piece soon.

toxin.
January 10th 2013


12427 Comments


my friend has shoved Bach down my throat (ears?) for about a year now. I've probably heard this (I think I dug the adagio movement?) but I hate the harpischord. Mainly because terraced dynamics on piano are fucking retarded.

NightmareCinema16
January 10th 2013


2016 Comments


Double post

Wombat988
June 9th 2013


389 Comments


Why hello there Sir Arthur 'Pompous' McTidge. We meet at last.

SirArthur6
June 9th 2013


177 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Why hello there, good sir! I do hope you find the time, effort, and heart, from deep within thy bosom, to give this fantastic masterpiece a listen.

thumbcrusher
June 9th 2013


3592 Comments


always get this dude mixed up with another seb bach which is pretty bad



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