The Italian Concerto & The French Overture


Signum Records presents the second volume of Lucy Carolan’s recordings of Bach’s keyboard music consisting of works from Volumes two, three and four of his "Clavierübung". Volume two contains the popular Italian Concerto and French Overture and concentrates on the number "two" – two pieces, two keys, two modes, two nations (Italy and France) and a two-manual harpsichord.

The Italian Concerto is unique: a wholly original solo keyboard work written as if "transcribed" from a string original to which Bach adds strikingly new ideas expressly suited for harpsichord. Bach had acquired his knowledge of Italian repertoire early on by transcribing Vivaldi violin concertos for solo harpsichord around 1712-13.

The contrasting French Overture contains lighter dances from the court of Louis XIV such as the gavotte, the passepied and bourrée – all are dance forms which had been familiar to Bach from his childhood.

The disc also includes duets from volume three and the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue which, although unpublished during Bach’s lifetime, became an inspiration to subsequent generations of composers.


What people are saying

“Dynamic playing by harpsichordist Lucy Carolan imbues these works with great spirit and verve. She plays with electrifying skill that adds a sparkle and pizzazz to pieces that require great technical skill…. Carolan’s immaculate sense of rhythm gives them fresh life."
(*** three star rating)

Shropshire Star

  "solid musicianship and first class technique"


Read what the reviewers said about Carolan’s previous disc:

“An excellent recording of Bach’s partitas, … deserves a place in the pantheon of the best available versions of these works.”

Kirk McElhearn, MusicWeb


"Carolan…consistently brings out the infinite expressive subtleties of the music"
(***** five star rating)

Nicholas Anderson, BBC Music Magazine

Lucy Carolan

Release date:10th Feb 2003
Order code:SIGCD030
Barcode: 635212003022

“… inspiring singing. They have impeccable ensemble and yet remain free to express themselves with real power and emotion.”

Lady Valerie Solti

Early Music Forum of Scotland News

This impressive CD contains some of the key works which Bach wrote for the harpsichord including the Italian Concerto BWV 971 and the French Overture BWV 831. Performing on a copy of a double-manual Mietke harpsichord of 1704, Lucy Carolan produces readings which are witty, feisty and deeply thoughtful, her impeccable technique ensuring that not a note goes astray, while an extremely sensitive touch provides subtle dynamic and textural variations. This powerful follow-up to the same performer’s much praised recording of the Bach Partitas confirms her place among the leading exponents of the harpsichord in Britain today.

D James Ross, March 2003
Artistic quality 8, Sound quality 9

The world may not need another harpsichord recording of Bach’s Italian Concerto or Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, but Lucy Carolan’s solid musicianship and first class technique serve these war-horses well. While some of her agogic adjustments in the Italian Concerto’s opening movement tend to get in the music’s way, her ruminative shaping of the Andante and strong, vigorous Presto finale more than compensate. Carolan admirably points up the Chromatic Fantasy’s improvisatory sweep, albeit to less bravura effect than Masaaki Suzuki’s cyclonic traversal on BIS.

If Carolan doesn’t quite match Igor Kipnis’ rhythmic flamboyance in the huge French Overture, her genuine feeling for each movement’s specific dance-like character is enhanced by thoughtful ornamentation on repeats and subtle shifts in registration. And her spacious, flexible phrasing organically underscores the Four Duets’ extraordinary harmonic invention. Carolan’s harpsichord is miked at enough of a distance to give the impression of how the instrument might project in a small, not overly resonant room, which makes the whole recital fall easily on the ear.

Jed Distler

The Shropshire Star,January 4th 2003, ***

Dynamic playing by harpsichordist Lucy Carolan imbues these works with great spirit and verve. She plays with electrifying skill that adds a sparkle and pizzazz to pieces that require great technical skill. Bach had turned his attention to these secular works in the 1730s after writing a prodigious amount of church music, in Leipzig. Carolan’s immaculate sense of rhythm gives them fresh life.

  1. Italian Concerto, BWV 971 – Allegro – [4:03]
  2. – Andante – [4:47]
  3. – Presto – [3:54]
  4. Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 904 – Fantasia – [5:48]
  5. – Fugue – [6:06]
  6. Four Duets, BWV 802 – 805 – Duet no.1 in E minor – [2:40]
  7. – Duet no.2 in F major – [3:18]
  8. – Duet no.3 in G major – [3:38]
  9. – Duet no.4 in A minor – [2:58]
  10. French Overture, BWV 831 – Ouverture – [7:34]
  11. – Courante – [2:11]
  12. – Gavotte I – Gavotte II – Gavotte I – [4:16]
  13. – Passepied I – Passepied II – Passepied I – [3:45]
  14. – Sarabande – [3:56]
  15. – Bourr?e I – Bourr?e II – Bourr?e I – [3:16]
  16. – Gigue – [2:25]
  17. – Echo – [3:00]