Andreas Staier (as J.S.Bach) and Ton Koopman (as Louis Marchand) 16th June 2019 Leipzig

Stadtbad, Leipzig
Bach and Dresden
Bach versus Marchand
L. Marchand: Prélude – Gigue – Chaconne

J. S. Bach: Fantasie a-Moll, BWV 922

J. S. Bach: Fuga, aus: Konzert C-Dur, BWV 1061a
Movements from the Suit in G minor by L. Marchand
Suite in G Major, BWV 816, J. S. Bach
Andreas Staier (harpsichord − J. S. Bach), Ton Koopman (harpsichord − L. Marchand),
PD Dr. Michael Maul (presentation)


This was a highly entertaining late night concert idea with two of the finest harpsichordists playing in the world today 'fighting it out note for note, phrase for phrase'. Although this Bach - Marchand confrontation at the Dresden court never actually took place (Marchand fled in fear under cover of darkness back to Paris) the idea of a keyboard duel has had a long and distinguished history.

16th century St Mark’s in Venice witnessed the ‘Duel of Two Organs’ between Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo in an improvisation competition. In 1709, Handel confronted Domenico Scarlatti in Rome - Handel’s patron, Cardinal Ottoboni, judged it a drawn contest with Handel awarded the organ laurels and Scarlatti those of the harpsichord. Mozart and Clementi competed in Vienna in 1781. Mozart won. It was decided 'While Clementi had only art, Mozart had both art and taste'. Beethoven, that elemental force of Nature, opposed three powerful opponents – Joseph Wölfl, Josef Gelinek and Daniel Steibelt. He defeated all of them and continued to dominate Viennese musical life.

In the present 'contest' and as a lover of the French classical tradition, I found the Marchand suites fine indeed especially the noble Chaconne and also the elegant and graceful Bach French Suite  No 5 in G minor BWV 816. However, an idiomatic and instinctive grasp of the intimacy, affectation, allure and charm of the French tradition escaped both these masters on occasion - a very personal conviction of mine as a lover of the music of Francois Couperin.

The entire concert was performed in a mood of great camaraderie and occasionally affected entertaining theatrical competitiveness. What a unique and splendid experience to hear two harpsichordists of such international stature playing together in such perfect unison dialogue, particularly the Bach double concerto in C-major in the version for two harpsichords without orchestra BWV 1061a. A quite wonderful experience.




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