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Classical - Released January 15, 2021 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet
With Volume 4 of Benjamin Alard's immense project to record all of Bach's music for keyboard, we remain in Weimar. However, while Volume 3 focussed on Bach's French influences, this one looks instead at Venetian influences, and in particular Bach's transcriptions of Vivaldi concertos, whose orchestral sonorities he transferred into the keyboard medium with astonishing success. This series has been especially striking for Alard's decision to group works according to chronology rather than genre, and for the range of stunning instruments he's on, meaning each programme represents an absolute cornucopia of different styles, textures and timbres. This latest addition is no exception to that rule. On the second disc, for instance, we have the exuberant Concerto in C major, BWV 976 transcribed from Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in E major, RV 265, followed by the dark polyphonic sobriety of Bach's own Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV 535, both performed on a gloriously big-toned, bell-like, silver on high and fruity down below, pedal harpsichord copy after a 1720 Hamburg model. Then he brings into play the flute-like tones of the original 1710 Silbermann organ in the Abbaye Saint-Étienne, Marmoutier, for a programme that prefaces various chorale preludes with his Organ Concerto in C major, BWV 594 based on Vivaldi's “Grosso Mogul” Violin Concerto in D major, RV 208, and precedes them with his own Italian-influenced Toccata in C major, BWV 564. As for the first disc, this features the highly distinctive-sounding original 1702 Mattia de Gand harpsichord found in Treviso's Museo Santa Caterina in Treviso, whose gently percussive-sounding upper registers sound especially ear-grabbing in the Largo of the Concerto in G major, BWV 980 transcribed from Vivaldi's Violin Concerto in B-flat major, RV 381. Alard hasn't just picked up the Bach transcriptions and played them, either. Instead, he's compared them with the orchestral originals, then come up with his own ideas on how best to voice parts and create effects, and this has reaped further riches. Just listen to the magnificent, sparkling sound world he's created for the Organ Concerto in A minor, BWV 593 – transcribed from Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins in A minor, Op. 3 No.8, RV 522 – thanks to the genius decision to play it not on organ at all, but on that aforementioned pedal harpsichord. Then to all the above you can add Alard's clear, bright touch, and a properly Vivaldian energy (indeed, a bit like Vivaldi, it's probably actually best enjoyed one disc at a time, so as not to end up feeling exhausted!). Never did a review feel so much like an inadequate scratching of an album's surface. To say there's enough here to keep the inquisitive listener joyously entertained for a long time is something of an understatement. © Charlotte Gardner/Qobuz

Classical - Released July 13, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet
Organ player and harpsichordist, titular player of the Aubertin organ of the Saint-Louis-en l'Île church in Paris, where he regularly plays Bach in concert, Benjamin Alard is an unstoppable talent. Passionate about the world of Johann Sebastian Bach, this young man, "reserved, with an understated sense of humour", has undertaken a complete recording of the Cantor's keyboard works for harmonia mundi. The project is vast, and has never before been completed by a single musician. Benjamin Alard's very original approach is based on the idea of taking on this vast catalogue split into fourteen chapters, following the timeline of the composer's life, describing his influences, his travels and his professional choices. Every volume is to be thought of as a series of episodes retracing the life and works of the Cantor of Leipzig. This first volume paints a picture of "the young heir", whose music is still very much a tribute to his predecessors, such as Georg Böhm, Johann Kuhnau, Tomaso Albinoni, Johann Pachelbel, Girolamo Frescobaldi, Louis Marchand and Johann Jakob Froberger. The instruments used for this complete recording have been selected, thankfully, with great care. Recorded in May 2017, this first volume uses the Silberman organ in Sainte-Aurélie in Strasbourg, a superb instrument built in 2017, which benefited from a magnificent restoration in 2015, to mark its tricentenary. As for the harpsichord, it is a modern instrument produced by manufacturer Émile Jobin, inspired by models from Ruckers and Dulcken. A young man of his times, Benjamin Alard accompanies this complete works with an original idea: every work is recorded and published separately on streaming and download sites (like Qobuz), along with videos on social media. © François Hudry/Qobuz

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