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Keyboard Thursday album review: Fine Bach on harpsichord from Hank Knox

By John Terauds on October 10, 2013

bach

McGill University professor and busy harpsichordist Hank Knox has put together a very nice selection of concert pieces by J.S. Bach for the early-music.com label.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Playing a 30-year-old reproduction of a Dulcken Flemish harpsichord, Knox brings an easy, natural sense of pacing to a wide range of pieces, from the showy Chromatic Fantasy (and its more severe companion Fugue) to the affecting simplicity of the Ricercar a 3 (three-part fugue) from A Musical Offering.

The centrepiece of the album is the Overture in French Style, BWV 831, where Knox gracefully balances counterpoint with the courtly dances on which they are built.

The great challenge with Bach is the seemingly infinite ways in which his music can be played. He left no dynamic or tempo markings, so it is up to each interpreter to absorb the notes, the structure and music history in order to successfully make each piece their own.

Knox doesn’t just go for metronomic precision; there is clear ebb and flow to go with the perpetual inner and outer dialogues. Nor are there any obvious plays with tempo or the (albeit limited) dynamics of the instrument to make the music artificially more interesting to listen to.

Simply put, this is what Bach is supposed to sound like on the harpsichord.

You’ll find more details about this album here.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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