Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wanda Landowska: Bach's Italian Concerto

Wanda Landowska performs J.S. Bach's Italian Concerto (BWV 971) on harpsichord. The original title of the piece is Concerto nach Italienischem Gusto (Concerto in the Italian style),which was published in 1735.


That year, Bach published Part 2 of his Clavier-übung or Exercises for the Keyboard, which comprised two pieces: a Concerto in the Italian Style – the Italian Concerto, and the Keyboard Partita in B Minor, also known as The Overture in The French style.

Even though the title implies a solo instrument with an orchestra, it is written for a solo keyboard. For Bach, this made perfect sense, says Rick Philips of the CBC, who clarifies its history as follows:
To Bach, music was a love, a hobby, a fascination and a vocation. Although he was very provincial geographically – he never left Germany – he was very continental in his musical outlook. Bach knew what was going on musically in Italy, France, England, Poland and so on. He poured over scores from those countries and enjoyed transcribing some of this music, to learn the style and grasp the forms. Bach was able to assimilate any style, form or musical pattern into his own, through study and transcription. His many re-arrangements of concertos by Vivaldi are good examples. For the Italian Concerto, Bach went a step further. The music and the arrangement are both by him. In essence, the Italian Concerto is Bach’s re-creation, in solo keyboard terms, of a standard Italian solo concerto a la Vivaldi or Corelli. It’s in the standard three movement form of the Italian concertos of the time – fast/slow/fast. The highly ornamented solo line in the slow middle movement has all the trappings of an oboe or violin concerto. The original title tells all – A Concerto in the Italian style.
Landowska's performance is from 1936. For the sake of comparison, you can also listen to Glenn Gould play the same concerto, two decades later, on piano here. Both are wonderful for the same reason that two different beautiful woman are still beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. Landowska manages to be both classical and romantic at the same time. She knows when to take liberties with the tempo and when not to.


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