In 2006, I reviewed Lippel’s last Bach recording (BWV998, 1003, 1010), writing that the performances exhibited amongst other things a balance between “historical fidelity and modern aesthetics”. Here, Lippel ups the ante, performing on a “well-tempered” refretted guitar by Walter Vogt which preserves the “unique affect of each key as framed by the interval characteristics of their core harmonic areas”.
In a nutshell, using a temperament developed by Bach’s student Johann Kirnberger, rather than our modern equal temperament, “one pure third (C-E) and a variable series of wider thirds through the circle of fifths” means every key sounds subtly different. Listen to the chords. The effect, once your ear gets used to it, is subtle, yes, but magical. It’s not out of tune; it’s more like a mild cognitive dissonance as expectations are subverted.
And the repertoire and the playing? Both are deeply satisfying.
Lippel revisits the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E Flat BWV998, which this time is accompanied by the so-called lute suites BWV996 in E Minor and BWV997 in C Minor (usually heard in A Minor on the classical guitar). The E Minor is beautifully articulated and liberally ornamented, the opening prelude and fugue restrained to throw the expressiveness of the following dances into sharper relief. I loved, too, the idea of intertwining the C Minor’s gigue and double, which affords a greater appreciation of interval contrasts. Lippel’s Prelude, Fugue and Allegro is perhaps quicker and stricter than that of, say, Sean Shibe’s. But it’s no less affective.
No mere curio, this release marks a watershed in Lippel’s ability to bring together novel musicological and philosophical strands in the service of pure pleasure.
Composer: J S Bach
Works: Works for fretted instruments
Performer: Daniel Lippel
Label: New Focus Recordings FCR920