Bach's complete Two-part and Three-part "Inventions" (this album: Kenneth Gilbert on the large harpsichord, ARCHIV Records) are supremely awesome because they started out, like much of his music, as purely instructional.
Not just that: it represents the invention of modern music as we know it. Bach was as determined and skilled a teacher as he was a composer and musician. It would not surprise me if the Inventions are linked to the BRANDENBURG CONCERTII the way DIVERSE KANONS are related to THE GOLDBERG VARIATIONS.
The "Inventions" were designed to train for finger independence, but it was so much more important to teach the performer to cause these pieces to flow, as if the human voice were singing them. Bach's original notes and his general advert as a teacher was that he could teach anyone to play anything in a style of a kind of 'mimicry' of the human voice.
Kenneth Gilbert, displaying his beautiful, logical prowess first by doing all the Two-part Inventions followed by all the Three-part Inventions, is a WIZARD on the harpsichord. I've literally had dreams I can play it this well, and I agree with another worthy colleague reviewer who says Gilbert is playing a very large harpsichord - which is as it should be. It matches Bach's genius and Gilbert's performances.
A beautiful example - one I used when criticizing Gould's interpretations - is the Two-part Invention in G major (which I believe is 10th in Bach's list). This is a lively, fulsome yet somehow percussive Invention meant, in my opinion, to be played "super-allegro"! It is my absolute favorite of them all, and it is my sincerest test of the performer. I don't mind telling anyone that this Invention, when played correctly, brings real tears of joy to my eyes.
Though Gilbert is a bit slow for my taste in this performance, it is careful, gorgeous, clean, and full-bodied like I have never heard before. The Two-part in G-major is a wicked test of a keyboardist's "oomph", strength and talent. I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard musicians trip up while trying to play it. As for me, I have only dared play parts of it, very slowly and I assure you, very poorly.
To be fair, Gilbert does, in fact, trip up on his tempo in one of the Two-part Inventions. As a loyal purist, I defy the listener to pick it out - I will not criticize a performer of this caliber. Gilbert's mastery of the full expressive ability of the harpsichord is unmatched; he makes it sing the way Bach hoped the student of his Inventions would learn to do. Gould on the piano is simply too tired, lazy or incapable of rendering a powerhouse harpsichord dream like this.*
It almost makes me wish I could hear Gilbert do these on the piano, just to hear the way he might interpret/attack them there, as opposed to the rather restricted and brute-strength fingering technique the harpsichord demands. Often I feel like hitting the roof when my wife flees the room upon hearing this album. She says the harpsichord is "creepy". Makes me recall Mama, who could not appreciate Bach because she thought his church organ pieces sounded like "horror movie music".
I do not know what Mama really thought of harpsichords, but I believe she liked them. As such, allow me to clarify this poorly understood problem: put simply, a harpsichord is not a piano and any keyboardist who thinks he/she will successfully trip from piano to harpsichord with little effort is ... well, going to trip up very badly on the harpsichord. They are two different instruments and the harpsichord is BRUTAL to the inferior keyboardist. We clear now?
*As an example of Gould's inferiority to Gilbert, for the sake of my 'smart tart' commenter who claims I know nothing of Glenn Gould: Gould slurred in an unforgivable way through many of the Inventions. He obliterated the trills, triplets and so forth in order to make the melody more liquid. Bach would have boxed Gould on the ears for that--possibly worse.
Those who claim an acquaintance with either performer are clearly ignorant of Bach himself: he once slashed a bassoon player in a duel the start of which was Bach's accusation that the bassoon player was slurring lazily through his music.
GET THIS COMPLETE VERSION of Bach's Two-part and Three-part Inventions and hear a flawless harpsichord singing like the birds, as it ought to be, and skip buying anything else!
Kenneth Gilbert is simply becoming far too difficult to find anymore, and ARCHIV (which this album is), TelArc along with other great labels are gone, gone, gone.