What the Critics say... 


Italian Concerto

Harpsichord music by JS Bach

Deux-Elles DXL917


CD of the Week, Observer Review, 2001

"Beecham may have likened the sound of the harpsichord to a skeleton copulating on a tin roof but 200 years earlier, Bach had no alternative. This collection of Italian-inspired forms and styles, from the early Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue to the great Italian Concerto spans Bach's Cothen and Leipzip periods. Charlston plays with flair and naturally expressive timing and, as occasioned in the early Aria Variata BWV 989, with touching serenity. With a recording that finely captures the instrument's bite while avoiding thundering mechanical noise, even Beecham might have approved." Edward Bhesania


Gramophone March 2002

 Don't be taken aback by so much rubato because it is legitimate. The trea­tises of Diruta, Quantz, Mattheson and Walther (Bach's cousin) show that line-shaping, through the inflection of phrases, was considered important; and these writings have led musicologist Peter le Huray to believe that the result was 'even more subtle and instinctive perhaps than Chopin's much praised rhythmic flexibility. Charlston puts this knowledge to discerning use. ,for example of his sensibility is the Chro­matic Fantasia and Fugue where virtuoso pyrotechnics are eschewed. The malleable line of the Fantasia, the circumspect treatment of the chords (2'01" to 3'16") that Bach ahich Bach wanted arpeggiated according to the performer's taste, both point to a thoughtful imagination that extends to a lucid expose of the Fugue; and to an equally lucid expose of the other major work, the Italian Concerto, There are surprises here too - the moderately paced first movement, and a presto finale that is no mere romp. Perhaps Charlston could have used his two-manual instrument (1998 copy of a 1624 Ruckers) to bring out the concerto-like contrasts more sharply; but the bass, notably in the slow movement, is strongly characterised so the tensions inherent in the harmonic progressions are clearly exposed. The sound is clean but confined, and the recorded level is too high. There is also one unexpected lapse - a rather mechanical performance of BWV 906. Otherwise, Charlston offers an outstanding recital. Of course, anything less from a professor at London's Royal Academy of Music would have been most disappointing. Nalen Anthoni


Early Music Review, DEC 2001

 These are fine, well-judged Bach perfor­mances. Terence Charlston is never showy in an egotistic or self-indulgent way; instead, I was captivated by his adroit control of the music's momentum. He gives cogent shape to the dramatic gestures of the Toccata in D and the Chromatic Fantasia & Fugue. His account of the Italian Concerto exudes energy but avoids the danger of sounding flighty. The disc also includes a few lesser-known pieces such as the galant Fantasia in C minor BWV 906 and the attractive Prelude & Fughetta in G major BWV 902. The Ruckers copy has a lovely sound and is recorded well. Recommended.                        Stephen Rose


Early Music Review Feb, 2002

"This is Terence Charlston's second recording of Sebastian Bach's solo keyboard music for Deux-Elles, and to me it has formed a highly impressive introduction on CD. This is no easy programme, for in it the famous masterpieces which challenge any good player are heard beside less attention-seeking works like the fine, early, multi-sectional Toccata in D, BWV 912, the Aria Variata 'in the Italian style' (but the French manner) and the Prelude and Fughetta in G, BWV 902. All are very musically shaped and delivered by one who obviously knows well how to make the best use of a realy sensitively-weighted actioned and amplified harpsichord copy. I have been drawn by the completely persuasive playing of the music into placing it immediately among my most favoured Bach harpsichord discs." Stephen Daw


Classical London

[Peter Grahame Woolf compares Terence Charlston's harpsichord CD release on Deux-Elles (DXL1017) with a recent offering from Angela Hewitt (piano)]

Bach's most popular work for solo keyboard scores over fifty entries in the Classical Catalogue and these two, received recently, offer a fascinating evening's listening played in tandem. Johann Sebastian was sparing with performance instructions, so there is ample scope for individual interpretation; both are recommendable. Terence Charlston explains how the Italian musical style pervades Bach's keyboard works, even though distant travel was impossible for him and a thirst for music of other lands had to be satisfied through contact with visiting musicians and by studying scores. Charlston inaugurated the Historical Practice course as Head of Early Music in the Royal Academy of Music, and he knows everything about how to make his chosen instrument expressive, by rhythmic variety and subtle agogic treatment of key moments, even though the harpsichord lacks the piano's sustaining pedal, or the 'swell' of later organs. He is equally an emotional and a scholarly musician, and his playing will convince some collectors who prefer their Bach on the piano. The Ruckers/Howarth harpsichord, closely recorded, is welcome in the living room, with a wealth of rich jangly tone colour captured under the lid. Angela Hewitt, the leading Bach pianist of today, is unexpectedly the cooler of the two in the Italian Concerto's slow movement, and far swifter in the others. Her colouration throughout her delectable CD is delightful, but you may begin to find, as I did, that her discreet surges of 'crescendo' feel slightly gratuitous oft repeated. There is no overlap of other works and both programmes offer ample variety (to my taste, more attractive than, say, Trevor Pinnock's deservedly award-winning Six Partitas on Hanssler Bachakademie Edn.115). Charlston has the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, and the highly ornamented Aria which became famous as the theme of the Goldberg Variations, and both programmes contain rarer music.


CD Review FEB 2002 

Sir Thomas Beecham is quoted as disliking Bach for his Protestant counterpoint. (He evidently didn't mind the no more nor less Protestant counterpoint of his beloved Handel.) In these four recordings counterpoint is everywhere, leaving the listener - this listener, at any rate - lost in renewed admiration for Bach's sheer wizardry in using his technical skills as the means to a satisfying artistic end. Terence Charlston plays a harpsichord by Andrew Garlick after Ruckers. His recital covers much of Bach's working life, from pieces written in his twenties up to Part  II of the Clavier­Ubung,-published in 1735 when Bach was fifty. The first piece is the misleadingly entitled Toccata in D, BWV 912, one of several multi-sectional keyboard works probably dating from Bach's tiI)Je in Arnstadt or Muhlhausen. It is followed by the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 903, and the Aria variata, BWV 989. Charlston is equally alive to the eccentricities of the fantasia as to the formality of the fugue; and it is not his fault if the variations rather outstay their welcome. There is a want of poignancy in the closing bars of the Andante in the Italian Concerto, and some might find Charlston's rubato in the Presto a little overdone, but the first movement is as exhilarating as anyone could wish. The Aria that later became the basis of the Goldberg Variations is a beautiful foretaste of the recording that I very much hope is to come. Of the remaining pieces, the Prelude in C minor for lute, BWV 999, with its ostinato bass, is appropriately played on a lute­stop. The Fughetta that follows the Prelude in G, BWV 902, is better known in its incarnation as the A flat fugue in Book 2 of the '48'. In the Fantasia in C minor, BWV 906, the end comes rather abruptly, but in all other respects this is a breathtaking performance, bringing out to the full the 'hallmarks of rhythmic vitality, chromatic inflection and tragic Affekt that Charlston mentions in his booklet-note. Richard Lawrence


Early Music Today AUG 2002

Terence Charlston's all-Bach disc offers well-known (Chromat­ic Fantasia, Italian Concerto) and lesser-known works (Aria varia­ta, Toccata in D, Fantasia in C minor and so on). Perhaps at times a little reined in, this is nev­ertheless expressive and engaging playing, particularly in the Chro­matic Fantasia, the fugue of which has great cumulative power. I am glad that Charlston cannot resist adding some lower octaves, par­ticularly as the Ruckers copy (by Andrew Garlick) on which he plays has an exceptionally rich bass register. John Kitchen 

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