- Italian Concerto, for solo keyboard in F major (Clavier-Übung II/1), BWV 971 (BC L7)
- Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, for keyboard in D minor, BWV 903 (BC L34)
- Overture in the French Manner, partita for keyboard in B minor (Clavier-Übung II/2), BWV 831
- Sonata for keyboard in A minor (after J. A. Reincken), BWV 965 (BC L187)
Kenneth Weiss is an American-born harpsichordist who moved to Europe, studied with Gustav Leonhardt, and later worked with William Christie in his growing farm system of ensembles of young musicians. His style in these Bach works seems more influenced by Christie's than by Leonhardt's -- it is imposing, sometimes even lush, but also apparently conditioned by lots of research into the specifics of Baroque performance practice. Weiss pushes and pulls the tempo a good deal more than most of his contemporaries -- oddly, more so in the "Italian Concerto for harpsichord, BWV 971," than in the suites of French dances included on the album. The delayed notes and suddenly racing passages seem at odds with the terraced, Vivaldian conception of the "Italian Concerto," but there's a lot of power in Weiss' performance, and it's enhanced by the glittering resonance of the 1761 French harpsichord he plays -- a wonderful find, housed in a Parisian museum. The final Presto movement has a very infectious sense of forward motion, and Weiss' interpretation of the "Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903," a work annotator Gilles Cantagrel considers an anguished response to the death of Bach's first wife, is appropriately dramatic. Another positive feature of the album is the inclusion on the program of one of Bach's least-often-played keyboard works: his "Sonata in A minor after the Sonata No. 1 in Jan Adam Reinken's Hortus musicus, BWV 965." This is really a suite of dances rather than a sonata -- the terminology was fluid in 1685, when north German composer Reincken wrote this five-movement work for two violins, viola, and continuo. Bach's version for harpsichord is an early example of his inclination toward making arrangements of the works of other composers from whom he thought he had something to learn -- he seems to have reworked music by Vivaldi and other composers in the spirit of reverse engineering, taking pieces apart and putting them back together again with minor but significant modifications. Even without familiarity with the original work, the listener here will notice passages of characteristically Bach-like harmonic density that sound as though they were added in his arrangement. The booklet notes, especially for such a historically oriented performer as Weiss, could have been a bit more specific on this score, and the booklet itself is poorly designed, with a combination of tiny print and large amounts of white space, and a near-criminal use of dull green track titles on duller green background. The engineers of France's Satirino label, however, apparently set themselves the task of capturing all the colors of Weiss' unique harpsichord, and they succeeded nicely. Recommended for listeners who liked Glenn Gould's "Italian Concerto" but have come around to the harpsichord point of view on Bach.