Superb Bach From Jory Vinikour

Review by: Jed Distler

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Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Collectors familiar with Jory Vinikour’s superb recordings of the Goldberg Variations and Six Partitas will find this Bach recital equally compelling. As with the Partitas, Vinikour plays a 1995 double-manual German model harpsichord by Thomas and Barbara Wolf, based on a 1738 vintage single-manual instrument by Christian Vater. Its rich timbre takes on a resonant glow via Dan Merceruio’s typically state-of-the-art production, although the sonics might seem relatively diffuse when measured alongside the detailed intimacy of Christophe Rousset’s Decca Bach recordings.

Reviewing Vinikour’s Partitas, I wrote that the harpsichordist’s aesthetic evokes that of his late mentor Huguette Dreyfus for generally conservative tempos and a subtle approach to agogic phrasing that avoids the rhythmic hiccups and lurching mannerisms that one too often hears in the (misplaced) name of authenticity. I should add that Vinikour’s experience as an opera conductor and a collaborator with vocalists often informs his approach. Rather than race through the Italian Concerto’s Presto, he shapes the busy scale passages in vocally oriented lines, and plays the Adagio as if it had been lifted from one of Bach’s cantatas.

I don’t know if Vinikour learned the authentic dance steps to the French Overture’s myriad movements, yet it sure sounds like it. For example, the way he lays into the tied upbeats in the Bourrées underlines the syncopated rhythmic effect’s inherent tension. And the Echo’s imitative effects make their point solely by touch and registration.

At first I felt Vinikour holding back in the Chromatic Fantasy’s opening pages; perhaps he was saving his mojo for the semi-improvised sequence of chords, where performers have a lot of leeway. Many musicians fall into the trap of starting the Fugue at a faster clip than they can comfortably sustain as the contrapuntal textures grow thicker and more complex. Not Vinikour, who steadily gains energy, momentum, and dramatic build. In the A minor BWV 894 Fugue, Vinikour’s use of an octave coupling stop threatens aural fatigue, yet his pointed articulation keeps the music afloat. Did Vinikour write the excellent yet uncredited booklet notes? A distinctive release, well worth hearing.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Bach Harpsichord Works
Reference Recording: Rousset (Decca)

  • BACH, J.S.:
    Italian Concerto BVW 971; Overture in the French Style BWV 831; Chromatic Fantasy & Fugue BWV 903; Prelude, Andante and Fugue BWV 894 and 1003
  • Jory Vinikour (harpsichord)

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