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Classical - Released January 15, 2021 | harmonia mundi

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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
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Classical - Released December 15, 2017 | harmonia mundi

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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
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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
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Classical - Released April 12, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 étoiles de Classica
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Classical - Released April 12, 2019 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - 5 étoiles de Classica
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Classical - Released March 11, 2010 | Alpha

Booklet
Glenn Gould defined Bach's partitas as blazing virtuoso vehicles, and such has been the fame of his readings that even soberer keyboardists tend to push the intensity when it comes to these works. But, as the excellent booklet notes by Gilles Cantagrel here explore, Bach did not intend the partitas as virtuoso music or as a vehicle for his own considerable talents. Instead they marked his debut, at the age of 41, in the world of commercial music for publication. He published the partitas himself as volume one of a proposed Clavier Übung (Piano Exercises) and sold them through a network of dealers around northern and central Germany, and keyboard amateurs found them challenging but gripping. One buyer, a woman named Luise Kulmus, wrote to her boyfriend that they were "as difficult as they are beautiful. If I play them ten times, I still feel myself to be a beginner with them." The young French harpsichordist Benjamin Alard seems to tie into this more technically modest but no less profound vision of the partitas in this gorgeously packaged release on France's Alpha label. Alard's tempos are on the slow side, and his ornamentation is careful and precise rather than coruscating. Many of the faster dances have a most unusual combination of easy grace and structural rigor. The sarabandes have a lot of subtlety in the attack but may or may not maintain the momentum (try the one from the Partita No. 5 in G major, BWV 828, CD 2, track 11, to see how you feel). Each album in Alpha's series includes a reproduction of a painting, together with analysis by Quebec art historian Denis Grenier, and these are often worth the purchase price all by themselves. On display here is Vermeer's View of Delft, not chronologically apposite, but absolutely of a piece with the partitas in their combination of bourgeois appeal and technical profundity. "Based on a rigorous network of horizontals and verticals, providing a solid foundation for the composition, [the painting] calls on diverse artistic means suggesting both permanence and the accident that embodies it." That could serve as a pretty good description of Bach's partitas, which here receive a genuinely fresh look. Booklet notes are in French and English. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 étoiles de Classica
Having already attracted attention for his exceptional gifts, Bach entered the service of the Weimar court at the age of twenty-three. This was the start of the period known as his ‘early maturity’, in which his formal and expressive experiments reflect a significant interest in French music and ‘la belle danse’. The close intertwining of French and German styles is the dominant feature of this third volume in Benjamin Alard’s recording of the complete organ and harpsichord works. ‘A remarkable complete set of Bach’s keyboard music is gradually being built up.’ – ResMusica. © harmonia mundi
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Classical - Released September 10, 2009 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Exceptional Sound Recording
France's Alpha label has issued a marvelous series of mostly Baroque and Classical-era pieces, in booklets sumptuously illustrated not only with items relevant to the performance at hand but also with a painting, fully analyzed by Quebec historian Denis Grenier, that may relate more or less closely to the musical works on the album. The painting included here has only an abstract relationship to Bach's six trio sonatas for keyboard; Grenier likens the crossing lines of the trio sonata texture, so cleverly transferred by Bach to the keyboard from its usual ensemble medium, to the multiple sight lines in the murkily sexy interior view by seventeenth century Dutch artist Samuel van Hoogstraten. It's a tenuous connection, but a really interesting painting, with slippers on the floor and keys swinging from a lock. Bach's sonatas have been performed on organ and pedal harpsichord. Keyboardist Benjamin Alard has played both organ and harpsichord; here he uses a modern French organ from the Eglise Saint-Louis en l'Ile in Paris, generally built in the style of German organs of Bach's time but not copied from any single example. It's a delightful instrument, sweet and melodious and not in the least ponderous, and Alpha's engineers have done their usual fine job in capturing its sounds. Alard's readings and registrations seem aimed at maximum clarity; he does little to make particular movements stand out, with generally consistent tempo choices throughout. Various choices exist for these sonatas, and whether one prefers this or the more colorful readings of Christopher Herrick on Hyperion, say, is a matter primarily of taste. But this is an attractive package, all the way through. Notes are in French and English. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 30, 2007 | HORTUS

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Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | HORTUS

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Classical - Released March 25, 2010 | HORTUS

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Classical - Released October 22, 2008 | HORTUS

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Classical - Released April 28, 2011 | Alpha

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - Exceptional Sound Recording - Hi-Res Audio
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Classical - Released October 20, 2017 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released March 29, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released March 15, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released May 10, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released April 26, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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Classical - Released April 12, 2019 | harmonia mundi

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