CD review

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Bach: Quodlibet, Canons, Songs, Chorales & keyboard works.

Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord and organ), with the Leonhardt

Consort and supporting soloists.

Recorded: 1964-1970.

Teldec 'Das Alte Werk' 3984-21354-2

Tasty Bachian soundbites, perfectly formed and musically self-sufficient. The one that isn't toys with Pythonesque nonsense rhymes. "Just look at Salome," Bach says of his sister ... "and her unsmiling little mouth. It is all because the stable-boy is tickling her with a fork." At 9 minutes and 33seconds, Bach's delightful - though incomplete - Quodlibet is the second longest item on a 74-minute CD.

The longest is a farewell present to a favoured brother preparing to sail for foreign climes, replete with spoken introductons (by Gustav Leonhardt himself) where friends try to discourage him from leaving home. The rest is unalloyed delight: tiny canons prophetic of minimalism and sundry tuneful miniatures - solo or concerted, vocal or instrumental - written mostly for Bach's second wife or his eldest son.

The anti-smoking lobby will be amused by "The Edifying Musings of a Smoker" (remember Bach's pot-shot at coffee drinkers in his Coffee Cantata?), where as "the pipe is made of clay and earth, and I am made of them as well, I also must to earth return." Sure thing, though a rather more edifying essay finds the incomparable soprano Agnes Giebel singing "forget me not, my dearest God". Giebel is Leonhardt's star soloist, but the overriding presence is Leonhardt himself, now 70 years old and still the most naturally gifted living practitioner of early music.

This entertaining and endearing low-priced CD is one of a series of 21 that Teldec are issuing in Leonhardt's honour. If you can spare the cash, invest in the lot - but this is as good a place as any to start.

Robert Cowan

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