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Colin Booth

Round O, Suites in D minor, D major, G Major, C major, G minor, A minor and F major,
Air, Ground, A New Scotch Tune, A New Irish Tune, Ground, Rigadoon, Song Tune, Trumpet Tune (Cibell), Air, Minuets I & II, Air, Round O
SOUNDBOARD SBCD 205 [Butley Court, Somerset June 2005; 75 mins]

Dark Harpsichord Music
[Prelude – evening] [01:03]
Jean Henri D’ANGLEBERT (1628-1691)
Prelude in g minor [02:02]
Armand-Louis COUPERIN (1725-1789)
Allemande in G [09:35]
Johann MATTHESON (1681-1764)
Air in g minor (from 12 Suites, 1714) [02:08]
Louis COUPERIN (c1626-1661)
Prelude in F [03:07]
Carl Philipp Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Sonata in F (W 62,6): andante [03:29]
Prelude in d minor [04:33]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita for violin solo in d minor (BWV 1004) : chaconne, transposed to a minor [12:39]
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Prelude in A (from L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin) [02:56]
Louis ANDRIESSEN (b 1939)
Overture to Orpheus (1981-82) [12:56]
Passacaille in g minor [05:12]
[Postlude – towards night] [01:44]

Colin Booth, harpsichord & spinet
Recorded in July 2003 at Westbury sub Mendip, England DDD

Colin Booth, harpsichordist, harpsichord maker and polemicist on behalf of his chosen instrument, contrives to make his CDs individual. Recording and production values are of the highest.

The more interesting of these two discs received for review is probably the earlier, Dark Harpsichord Music (2003). Recreating an evening concert in the country at Dartington Hall, it begins with evocative bird call, a pleasant conceit which perhaps works less well at the end of the recital. Aiming to convey the instrument's more romantic image, he chose one of his instruments with a 'truly dark tone' (a small two manual harpsichord derived from a Vater 1738 model) and to maintain continuity he improvises short links between the items.

Free French Préludes create the dreamy, improvisatory atmosphere he seeks and frame major works, centrally the great Bach D minor Chaconne for violin, familiar in piano transcriptions by Brahms & Busoni, here transcribed down and sounding satisfyingly rich and sonorous on harpsichord. Not too jarring in the context is the sole contemporary item, Andriessen's 'Overture to Orpheus' (1982) a work needing two keyboards, related to the 18 C Pièces Croisées. Louis Couperin's Passacaille brings the sequence to a satisfying conclusion.

Less introspective is Purcell in his harpsichord music, forthright and rhythmic, lacking French introspection. His pieces are mainly brief and the little Suites are supplemented in Booth's performance by other tunes which help to expand them to a suitable length. He gets contrast of timbre by using two new instruments of his own creation, a harpsichord of 2003 and a spinet made in 2004.

Unlike the cleverly conceived sequence of Dark Harpsichord Music, this disc of more robust music is better not heard straight through at a sitting; judicious mixtures of the two might work quite well for you?

Order Dark Harpsichord Music and Colin Booth's other CDs direct from Soundboard.

Photo illustration (PGW): Colin Booth tuning one of his harpsichords at Greenwich Early Music Fair


Bach Goldberg Variations

Soundboard SBCD 210

Released early 2011, this may be considered a peak of Colin Booth's numerous releases on his own label. Several sets of variations (notably these and Beethoven's Diabellis) are amongst the great works which never pall upon repetition, perhaps because of the variations which are intrinsic in their performance too?

It has arrived shortly after his provocative new book Did Bach Really Mean That? about deceptive notation in baroque keyboard music, and his insights are here recorded in sound, and summarised in Booth's liner notes about Tradition, Structure, Performance, Ornaments, Rhythm and "The Legend - and the music".

Booth takes a lighter approach than some, and he reminds us that complete performances would not have been envisaged; indeed he urges us to dwell on individual variations and to use the "repeat button".

A wonderful disc, which we have listened to in whole and in part several times, with great enjoyment. We have reviewed some 27 Goldbergs over the years, and another by one of our reviewers is promised from Chandos later this year.

Peter Grahame Woolf

© Peter Grahame Woolf