American Record Guide

In this excellent record by English harpsichordist Terence Charlston, late 17th- and early 18th Century keyboard repertoire is interpreted on a newly-built instrument based on a surviving anonymous Thuringian harpsichord currently housed in the Eisenach Bach-haus. Expertly-written liner notes in English describe unique elements of the Thuringian harpsichord tradition; and the instrument itself records beautifully with a rich, resonant timbre. The program title, “The Harmonious Thuringian”, is a play on the most recognizable work, Handel’s Fifth Suite in E, which concludes with the ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’ variations.

Listeners will also be familiar with Bach’s Toccata in E minor, one of his earlier surviving compositions. The remainder of the record includes shorter lesser-known works by German contemporaries and predecessors of the young Bach and Handel, such as Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, Johann Krieger, Johann Kuhnau, and Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. Given the cosmopolitan character of late 17th Century German keyboard culture, French music is also appropriately represented by Louis Marchand, and Italian music with Tarquinio Merula’s ‘Capriccio Cromatico’, which brilliantly demonstrates the character of unequal temperament.

Charlston performs with elegance and refinement. His ‘Harmonious Blacksmith” projects a virtuosic command, while the other works largely demonstrate his lyricism, with graceful, well-paced phrasing. His ornamentation is sometimes uneven, most observable in the French-influenced ostinato works by Fischer and Krieger. While his approach to sonority is generally rich and spacious, I hoped for more in specific cadences, for example at the conclusion of the Fugue by JC Bach. But these are minor points; this is overall an excellent record with beautiful performances of an unusual collection of repertoire.

—Michael Unger