The lead item this month is a brilliant Bach recital by Berkeley-based David Cates. The performances resist falling into any particular categories besides those of exceptional beauty, elegance, and understated virtuosity.  
Laurence Vittes, Southern California Early Music Society News, September 2000

David Cates

 

 

 

 

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David Cates (b. 1958) is an example of the outstanding talent to be found in America’s newest generation of harpsichordists. A student of Parmentier, he now makes his home in Berkeley, which is in many ways the New Mecca for America’s period instrument movement. Cates’ recent Bach recital reveals an unusual interpreter at work (Wildboar 9902). The CD concludes with what I consider the most successful rendition of the difficult Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue ever recorded.
-  Classical Music: The Listener’s Companion (2002); from an overview of harpsichordists, and included in a list of the 20 most highly recommended performers, both living and deceased.
Bach; Music for Harpsichord, David Cates Wildboar 9902
This disc offers the best recording of the French Overture BWV 831 I’ve heard to date. It just sounds ‘right’—grand in scale and yet quite moving on a personal level. Cates’ style is deceptively simple in that he pretty much lets the music perform itself. There’s no exaggerated articulation, no pulling about of tempos, and no gimmicks. What there is is real clarity, a fine sense of melodic line, and a kind of innocence about it all that is a joy to hear and, quite frankly, a breath of fresh air compared to many recordings. Along with the French Overture we also get some interesting chorale settings, four intriguing, highly chromatic Duets BWV 802-5, and the Toccatas in e minor and G major. Cates really finds the groove in these last two works and, particularly in the G major Toccata, offers some thoughtful and original interpretational points. The last piece on the disc, the d minor Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, is masterfully controlled, and Cates’ path through the harmonic minefield of the Fantasy is safe and true…….Few harpsichordists are as unfussy, honest and revealing as Cates – this is a disc to savour.  
Robin Bigwood, Early Music Review (UK)
This collection of Johann Sebastian Bach’s keyboard music reflects the myriad influences that helped shape his musical vision…..Cates’ choice of repertoire is eclectic….Cates’ technical prowess is daunting and when he gets to stretch out and show his chops, this recording soars. The toccatas are ideally suited to Cates’ style; the final fugue in BWV 914 is a dazzler. Best of all is the grand Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in d minor BWV 903, where Cates spins a line of notes at the conclusion of the opening Fantasy that will leave you breathless.
Craig Zeichner, Early Music America July 2000
David Cates’ 1998 Froberger recital is a miracle of discovery for a composer who, despite past recordings by Christophe Rousset, Lars-Ulrik Mortensen and Gustav Leonhart is not quite yet in the mainstream of early music –but ought to be…….Cates presents a profoundly sensitive and moving concert.
Laurence Vittes, SCEMS May 2000
Two new Bach programs from young, imaginative artists; I’ve heard Cates before, in an engaging Froberger program (Sept/Oct 1998). His Bach has the same variety of playing style and interpretive surprise. One of the most enjoyable shocks of all is the way he begins the G major Toccata. For those who know the music, the work begins with a single melodic line, echoing Vivaldi’s most exuberant manner, that we hear twice before the piece proper begins. Cates does something I’ve never heard: he puts a big silence in before the second playing, making the first seem like a false start. This good-humoured touch is perfect for one of Bach’s earliest and most enthusiastic works. At other times Cates is more understated. In the French Overture, for instance, he conveys a lot of expressive character with the most economical of gestures; a halting of the tempo in one spot, a single bass passage played with all the notes detached. The whole adds up to a conception of the French Overture that is more personal than most of the current ones.
Rob Haskins, American Record Guide, Sept/Oct 2000
David Cates
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