Review By Charles T. Downey,Ionarts,May 2009
Bach’s works for lute are one of those odd corners of the Baroque corpus, another example of Bach’s encyclopedic musical interests, even for instruments that were on their way out of fashion. Certainly Bach was acquainted with lutenists at most stages of his career, but he did not own one and conceived his music for it mostly through the medium of the keyboard. Not long after the new complete set of the Bach lute works by Paul O’Dette met with my approval, this recording crossed my desk, with keyboard specialist Elizabeth Farr playing them on a Lautenwerk, or lute-harpsichord. We know that Bach owned two of them, keyboard instruments with gut (and some brass) strings that imitated the sound of the lute, and that he appears to have composed at least some
No historical examples of the instrument have survived from the 18th century, but builders have made attempts to reconstruct them. Historical instrument builder and fellow Michigan State University alumnus Keith Hill designed the Lautenwerk heard on these two discs according to the specifications Bach recorded for one of the instruments in his collection (copied by Jacob Adlung in 1768). Some of the pieces are arrangements by Bach of other works—a cello suite, a violin partita, and a violin sonata, and they do not necessarily work as idiomatically for this instrument. A delightful piece that is quite new to me is BWV 990, a C major sarabande that Bach reportedly adapted from Lully’s Bellérophon (although I have yet to find it in the score), followed by 15 partite, or variations, the last four of which are a mini-dance suite.
Farr plays all of this music with a delicious sensibility, embellishing gracefully and providing plenty of variation among registrations between repeats and sections, giving the impression of performance by a consort of instruments.more....
Review By Bob McQuiston,Classical Lost and Found,January 2009
Review By L.G.,Ritmo,November 2008
Review By John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic,St. Petersburg Times,September 2008
Why we care: Elizabeth Farr plays the lute-harpsichord, a two-keyboard instrument with a combination of gut and brass strings. It was built for her by Keith Hill.
Why we like it: Bach is always addictive, but this two-CD set has a wonderfully serene effect that provides ideal accompaniment for anything from meditation to being stuck in a traffic jam. It includes suites and other works written for lute-harpsichord as well as transcriptions. The lute-harpsichord sounds like a harpsichord with just a hint of the lute.
Reminds us of: Why Bach's cosmic genius may be best realized in his keyboard works.
Review By ,Infodad.com,September 2008
DISCOVERY AND REDISCOVERY
Review By Bradley Bambarger,New Jersey Star-Ledger,August 2008
The harpsichord and its repertoire can make for a sensual, intimate avenue of aural escape. That takes not only a sensitive player, but an alluring instrument and the right acoustics.
Even those who think they are allergic to the harpsichord may find themselves beguiled by the tone of the lute-harpsichord. This mysterious Baroque hybrid, strung mostly in gut like a lute rather than in metal like a harpsichord, combined the compass of a keyboard with the warmth of a plucked instrument. A fan of their ravishing sound, Bach owned a couple of lute-harpsichords.
Review By Giv Cornfield,The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics,August 2008
This admirable project encompasses all the works that Bach wrote for the lute: four suites, a sonata and various preludes and fugues, all transcribed for the lute-harpsichord (Lautenwerke). For this monumental undertaking, Ms. Farr – whose superb artistry we've enjoyed on several other Naxos CDs – plays a powerful-sounding instrument reconstructed by Keith Hill from specifications in Bach's own archive, who owned and played two such instruments. The sound is a bit startling at first, and takes a little while getting used to. The subtleties of the originals for lute are submerged by the onslaught of the lute-harpsichord. For all of Farr's dexterity, I'd recommend taking this music
Review By Dave Lewis,Allmusic.com,August 2008
One designation in Johann Sebastian Bach's music that used to mystify many was his instruction for certain pieces to be played aufs Lautenwerck. If one were lucky enough to know someone who was conversant in historical keyboard instruments, they would tell you that Bach was referring to the lute-harpsichord, a hybrid instrument strung with gut strings and played from a keyboard that sounded like a lute but had a somewhat wider range. When Bach died in 1750, his will shows that he was still in possession of two of them. However, audible evidence of the instrument is in short supply; as no historic lute-harpsichords exist, the literature written for them wound up in the hands of harpsichordists, pianists, and lute players, the latter group often having to contend with the reality that this music really didn't suit their instrument. The barrier was broken in 1993 when harpsichordist Kim Heindel recorded his disc Aufs Lautenwerck for the Dorian Discovery label on a rebuilt instrument. That disc only included five works; this one, Naxos' Johann Sebastian Bach: Music for Lute-Harpsichord, features Elizabeth Farr in nine, some pieces being transcribed, but nevertheless containing all of the authentic music Bach created for this instrument. The instrument itself is a stunning Keith Hill lute-harpsichord built after specifications taken down from one of the two lute-harpsichords Bach owned.
The lute-harpsichord is one of the most beautiful sounding of all early keyboards; it is not clattery but mellow, not jangling and bright but profound and ominous. Elizabeth Farr has taken the time to familiarize herself with this "new" historic instrument, fully embracing its possibilities in this familiar music of Bach, which comes alive once it is played on the instrument for which it was intended. As the Heindel effort was acquired and heard by very few, this is a great second opportunity to get to know Bach's output for the lute-harpsichord the way it was meant to be heard, and both Farr's performance and Naxos' recording are first-rate. Those who take serious interest in Bach should not fail to take note of this release.more....