Sunday, August 26, 2012

Thurston Dart - French Suites (Clavichord recording, 1961)

After being unable to find any good clavichord recordings elsewhere on the internet, I felt I should share this disk, despite this not being a "real" music blog. I'm not sure if these recordings have been reissued, but they are a great document of the capabilities of this neglected instrument. I originally acquired this LP when my friend Ian offered me my pick of a load of classical vinyl that Academy Records (the Williamsburg branch, where he worked) could not sell and was trying to get rid of. For shame, uncultured Brooklyn! This was one of the best of the batch.

From a 1962 review of Dart's recording:
The French Suites were actually called by Bach Suites pour le clavecin; but this does not mean that the nature of the keyboard instrument for which they were intended can be precisely specified. Terry was of the opinion that they "are suited to the harpsichord rather than the clavichord, for they invite the tonal contrasts which only the former could afford", but a convincing case could doubtless be put forward for the clavichord, since it was Bach's favourite domestic instrument and the Suites were initially written in a home album for Bach's second wife Anna Magdalena. Anyway, Thurston Dart's performances on the clavichord, though obviously without the range of colour of Kirkpatrick's recordings, make unfailingly satisfying listening by reason of their sheer musicality, their stylishness, their varied articulation and their wealth of expressive nuance. By omitting all repeats (and even the do capo Minuet in Suite I, though not that in Suite III), Dart saves a whole side over his rival—who, of course, was able to vary his registration for each repeat; but though the music is often so fine that one wants to hear it through again (and though, of course, dance-form movements, such as these all are, should properly have each half repeated), for gramophone purposes the shorter version has its advantages.
I've mentioned here before how I value a sense of intimacy in recordings of chamber music. Whether or not these pieces were intended to be played on the clavichord, this instrument produces the more intimate recording, as though it were more an approximation of Bach's own compositional process rather than the suites' first public performance.

Thurston Dart in 1964, via Semibrevity.
Information about Thurston Dart can be found here at the Semibrevity blog. Dart was apparently one of the earliest and most influential proponents of early music and period instrumentation, although his own work has not had very much exposure.

Thurston Dart - French Suites (1961)

A1.  Suite No. 1 in D Minor (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Menuets I & II - Gigue)    8:34
A2.  Suite No. 2 in C Minor (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Air - Menuet - Gigue)    7:24
A3.  Suite No. 3 in B Minor (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Anglaise - Menuet & Trio - Gigue)    8:54
B1.  Suite No. 4 in E Flat Major (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Gavotte - Menuet - Air - Gigue)    8:03
B2.  Suite No. 5 in G Major (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Gavotte - Bourree - Loure - Gigue)    10:14
B3.  Suite No. 6 in E Major (Allemande - Courante - Sarabande - Gavotte - Polonaise - Bourree - Menuet - Gigue)    9:23


1 comment:

  1. Dear friend,
    the link is dead... Sob!