Keyboardist Benjamin Alard is an important force in France's early music scene. He is a versatile player, performing on organ, harpsichord, and clavichord, and playing in chamber music and ensemble music as well as solo. Alard was born on July 13, 1985, in Rouen, France, and grew up in the village of Les Grandes-Ventes in the Normandy region. A local parish priest introduced him to the organ and quickly spotted his talent, sending him to the Ecole nationale de musique in Dieppe. Developing an interest in early music, Alard went on to the Rouen Conservatory, where he studied with Louis Thiry and François Ménissier. He began harpsichord studies in Paris with Elisabeth Joyé and then, in 2003, enrolled at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, studying organ with Jean-Claude Zehnder and harpsichord with Andrea Marcon. Alard won major prizes on both instruments; in 2004, he took both first prize and audience prize at the Bruges International Harpsichord Competition, with Gustav Leonhardt as judging chair. Still just 20, he was designated after a competition as "co-titulaire" of the new organ at Paris' Saint-Louis-en-l'Île church, where he established a concert series. He participated in a complete cycle of Bach's organ works performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in 2009, and in 2012, he embarked on a five-year residency at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, Spain, performing during that period a complete cycle of Bach's harpsichord music. Alard has toured as a soloist as far afield as East Asia, Turkey, and the U.S., and he is a frequent guest at French festivals. In addition to solo performing and recording, he is a well-established collaborator with early music ensembles, notably as a continuo player for Sigiswald Kuijken's group La Petite Bande. Alard has made a number of recordings, all of them at this writing devoted to the music of Bach. He made several recordings for the Alpha label and then, in 2018, moved to Harmonia Mundi for the first volume in a cycle of Bach's complete keyboard music. In 2021, that cycle reached its fourth album, Alla Veneziana.
© James Manheim /TiVo
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released April 30, 2007 | HORTUS
Classical - Released December 15, 2017 | harmonia mundi
Organist and harpsichordist Benjamin Alard has put his mind to producing a complete recording of J.S. Bach's works for keyboard instruments. At this point we should note that the title for the English release, "The Work for Organ & Harpsichord" may cause confusion. It should in fact read "The Work for Organ & for Harpsichord"... Bach, after all, never wrote anything for organ and harpsichord playing together... But we digress. This sprawling work, covering thirty hours of music, will tell the story of the Cantor of Leipzig in fourteen chapters; and it seems that it is the first complete recording for all the works for a solo keyboard - i.e. all the music for organ and all the music for solo harpsichord - that Bach wrote, executed by one single musician. Alard attempts to bring out these albums in an order that respects the chronology of his life, following his influences, his journeys, his professional choices. The fourteen chapters, in an oblique numerological jest, represent the fourteen letters of his name. The recording was started on the André Silbermann organ (1718) in the church of Sainte-Aurélie in Strasbourg, and on a harpsichord made by Émile Jobin, inspired by a Ruckers of 1612 and a Dulcken from 1747. The first volume of this collected works will bring together the works composed between 1695 and 1705. It should come as no surprise that the works from Bach's youth should carry such high BWV numbers - the numbering system of the Bach Werke Verzeichnis is not chronological, and the organ works run from BWV 525 to 771, and those for harpsichord from 772 to 994. © SM/Qobuz