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This is an interesting recording, not least because the harpsichord used is by Colin Booth, well known as both maker and player. It is based on an original of Nicholas Celini of 1661, brass strung, and with a wonderfully clear, sonorous voice in counterpoint. Booth writes long notes, very interesting and informative, but could have been more concise in discussing tuning systems.

Preludes I and III are lovely, with a flexible sense of movement, Prelude V is subtle and shows the excellent speech of the bass of this harpsichord, the succeeding fugue with its dotted rhythms and ornamental figures played with superb clarity. Prelude XXI has rhetorical freedom and a great sense of the stylus fantasticus, while Prelude VIII shows more reflective playing. Booth makes great use of notes inégales, which in this repertoire has no consensus among musicologists, and here are used rather too much for the integrity of the music. It is particularly disturbing for instance in Prelude XII, and in fugues it often works against the clarity of contrapuntal structure. This fixation with rhythmic inequality rather undermines what would otherwise be an exceptional recording.

DOUGLAS HOLLICK Read the full review on Agora Classica

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