Music review: Bach Keyboard 2, St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh

Bach Keyboard 2, St Cecilias Hall
Bach Keyboard 2, St Cecilias Hall
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It’s always good to start with a joke.

Bach Keyboard 2, St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh * * * *

No sooner had harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani and his supporting Dunedin Consort launched into the romping first 8 bars of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in D minor, when they stopped abruptly. “That’s all Bach gave us”, he announced, further explaining he had arranged his own extended reconstruction, which we were now about to witness.

The “new” material, he added, came from a 1726 cantata bearing the same theme, so the task was to do “what Bach would have done” and “turn it into a harpsichord concerto”. The result was largely convincing, strangely scored (by Bach) for supporting oboe, strings and continuo, but distinctive in this performance for the deliciously ripe oboe playing of Jasu Moisio.

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Emerging in this series is a conviviality evident in both the chatty presentation and raw spontaneity in performance. I loved how Esfahani’s flamboyance loaded his Toccata in D minor solo spot with super-charged unpredictability, not so much the throwaway ending that bore careless after-twangs from the Kirckman harpsichord.

There’s plenty of stylish zeal in the F major Concerto (actually Brandenburg 4 recast), its texture softened by the agile duo, Robert Ehrlich and Ian Wilson.

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