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Richard Egarr, Music Room, Royal Pavilion, Brighton, May 26
You play Bach your way and I'll play him his, was Wanda Landowska's celebrated riposte to criticism of her harpsichord interpretation. But every musician plays Bach his way today, because everybody can. Yet blood is still spilt in argument over Bach on period keyboards or modern pianos. Richard Egarr's contribution to the debate was a fine, full-blooded performance of Book l of the 48 Preludes and Fugues on what he described as the Aston Martin of harpsichords.
Egarr introduced his recital and demonstrated the beautiful harpsichord. He explained “well tempered”, pitch variation, squeezed fifths and the psychological drama of the keys; for example, the cheerful sunny C major opening prelude, in contrast to the desolate landscape of the final B minor fugue. (Schoenberg believed the B minor XX1V to be the first 12-note composition.) Dressed entirely in black, Egarr offered no visual rivalry to the oriental splendour of the Pavilion Music Room but a heady, aural counterpart instead. Dazzling technique displayed the glitter of lll and Vl and, in contrast, the majesterial weight of Vlll. If he occasionally adopted “l'aspiration”, playing a note slightly late to loosen the steady beat from its moorings and create a more expressive fluidity - or doubled the bass - no matter. He proved a sturdy champion of period performance. But even with so fluent a master, harpsichords lack the depth and dynamics of a Steinway model D. Rosalyn Tureck championed both: I am sure Egarr can; I like to think Bach is.