More Bizarre or baRock

Elizabeth Anderson (harpsichord) and friends

MOVE CD 3326

reviewed by Neville Cohn


For those who think of the harpsichord exclusively in terms of its repertoire dating back to the pre-piano era, Elizabeth Anderson’s latest compact disc may well prove startling. Certainly, it is one of the most delightfully entertaining recitals on the instrument I’ve heard in a long time.

Some years ago, film fans watching Margaret Rutherford, the first – and most redoubtable  –  incarnations of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, would have heard its quirky theme music played on a harpsichord which, at that time, was a most unexpected departure from the norm. It brought home the idiosyncratic timbre of the instrument to millions who might never have heard, or even thought about, the harpsichord.

Much of this collection is in this delightfully zany tradition.

Elizabeth Anderson has done much to familiarise listeners with the instrument in unexpected styles, such as Franzpeter Goebels’ Chocolate Boogie, its anarchic measures a clear indication of what is to follow. Anderson seems positively to relish coming to grips with Andrew Koll’s Fuguedelic, after which there is a brief return to what might call stylistic normality with a fine reading of the first of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues. Then it’s back to the bizarre with Templeton’s Bach Goes to Town.

Bach’s arrangement for harpsichord of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D receives first rate treatment by Anderson in a performance which underscores the music’s many dramatic moments. Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Breakdown calls up images of a boozy hillbilly celebration.

Those who delight in Chopin’s magisterial Polonaises may well find Couperin’s and Telemann’s versions of the dance rather less athletic and intense than those of the Polish master.

Jill Lowe’s baRock is a fine vehicle for Anderson’s virtuosity, especially rapid repeated notes which are played with huge flair. Certainly, the inherent grandeur of the piece comes across splendidly.

One of the most celebrated of all harpsichordists – George Malcolm – wrote a cheeky, insouciant version of the hornpipe and Anderson gives bracing point and meaning to it. Martin Peerson’s Fall of the Leafe, however, can’t hold a candle to Giles Farnaby’s exquisite miniature of the same name.  Purcell’s Round O will be instantly recognised by many as the theme Benjamin Britten used for his Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra tossed off with enviable ease. Ligeti’s Continuum is a little miracle of flawless fingerwork.

Throughout, Anderson’s artistry is complemented by co-musicians Rosie Westbrook, Tony Floyd, Ariel Valent and Ron Nagorka.

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