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GRAMOPHONE (04/2015)
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Reviewer: Harriet Smith


Claire-Marie Le Guay is a pianist of broad interests, with repertoire ranging right up to the present day, but this is her first disc devoted to Bach. She presents an enticing array of works, combining the ubiquitous with the more esoteric.


From the outset, her playing is strong and assured; her fingerwork is seamless (as you might expect of one who has recorded Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes), and she dispatches the outer movements of the Italian Concerto with aplomb. She doesn’t stint on ornamentation either, but it’s always judiciously applied. The Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother is given a warmly engaged reading, though I find Kempff’s non-interventionist approach particularly telling here, heightening moments of plangency such as the stepwise descending bass towards the end of the first movement. Occasionally you sense that Le Guay is trying too hard, not least in the Adagiosissimo of this piece or in the 11th Three-Part Invention, which is peppered with pauses and rubatos, wreathing it in a kind of nostalgia which will be deliciously inauthentic or vaguely annoying, depending on your point of view.


In the First Partita, the individual movements are well characterised, but others are even more effective. No one makes the Gigue dance and sparkle quite as brilliantly as Anderszewski. That may be too fast for some, but compare Le Guay with Perahia in a movement as outwardly simple as the Menuet and you find in the American a greater wealth of articulation and subtlety. To end, a precisely articulated Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue, but turn to Hewitt or Edwin Fischer and you find a greater sense of the work’s undoubtedly extemporised beginnings. Le Guay is finely recorded but I’m not sure there’s enough about her playing to make this an essential addition to the Bach library.


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