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My knowledge of harpsichord music, like my knowledge of many things, is greater than that of the average person but hardly vast. I have listened to more of it than most music fans I suspect (usually with headphones, as it is not as popular in my house as I would prefer.) I really enjoyed its appearance on some 60s rock and folk and loved the Secret Agent theme far more than the vocals that blew it away. But I do not play keyboards, do not read music, and do not know a fugue from a fantasy.
So be warned. One of my favorite LPs back in the 70s was a disc of Anthony Newman on both harpsichord and organ. Side 2 concluded with John Bull's Walsingham Variations, a twelve minute extravaganza of whirling, twisting and dazzling virtuosity. The entire LP was great, but this was just astounding. I never grew weary or bored with it, but listened many hundreds of times. And that, or course, was the problem. Even though I had a very expensive turntable, the many spins (as well as a nasty warp) eventually made the LP sadly unplayable. I know many purists do not care for Newman's playing; I once asked the music critic of our paper about a potential digital replacement for my beloved LP; he sneered at Newman's name and suggested other, more substantial, performers.
I finally bit and bought this collection of John Bull music. And if this is more substantial, well, then, give me fluff. Because to my ears, I acquired a pretty dull affair. It may be the music; I have never heard any of the other pieces before, but they hold little to interest my ear as performed here. But the Walsingham, oh my, what a mammoth disappointment. Methodical, plodding and bland, both the instrument and the playing are a far cry from Newman's wild and furious gusto. And this version comes in a full five minutes longer.Read more ›
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